Mancari joins IceDogs coaching staff
Mark Mancari had an inkling during his playing days he would one day wind up behind the bench.
The 34-year-old London native had a long and successful pro hockey career which included several stops at the American Hockey League level, four years in Europe, and 49 games in the National Hockey League with the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks.
So when an injury put an end to his playing career, a shift behind the bench seemed a natural.
“I always wanted to get into coaching,” said Mancari, who was hired as an assistant coach by the Niagara IceDogs last week. “For probably for the last seven years of my career, I was kind of getting ready and preparing for it.”
Mancari suffered a severe injury to his rotator cuff, labrum and bicep while in Germany which gave him a chance to work with the players while he was convalescing.
“I had a pretty big injury and it put me behind the bench and in those experiences while I wasn’t playing,” he said. “My injury was deemed that I was unable to play anymore. I knew right away that is what I wanted to do. I enjoyed it as a veteran and as a player.”
Mancari, who was a seventh-round selection of the Sabres in the 2004 NHL draft, admitted it was tough not to go out on his own terms.
“I think any player would say the same thing. It doesn’t sit well that it wasn’t my choice or that it was old age and you just can’t do it anymore,” he said. “It definitely hits you pretty hard being taken out of a game you’ve played for a long time without it being your own decision, but I’m more than excited and ready to take this next chapter. It’s the direction I wanted to go anyway.”
Mancari put out a ton of feelers and contacted IceDogs head coach Billy Burke several times once he knew there was an opening following the departure of Kris Sparre, who took a job in Austria.
Mancari played for a variety of coaches in his career.
“The big thing for me is every coach brought something different and a different approach, a different attitude and a different way to prepare for games,” he said. “I really want to be relatable to all the players. With so many different personalities on a roster and so many different ways to get motivated or prepared for a game, I just want to know the guys and know their styles and know how to communicate with them. I think that’s really important in getting the best out of every player.”
Mancari realizes there will be an adjustment period coming back to the OHL.
“It’s going to be a different approach for me but I went through it in my hometown with the London Knights. I follow it and when you’re a pro in the AHL you always get these kids coming out of the OHL and you’re helping them become pros.
“It’s just being on a different side. Now I get these guys a little sooner and help them prepare for it.”
Mancari, who is slated to work with the forwards, has been to St. Catharines and came away impressed with the IceDogs facility.
“It’s amazing. It looks so much like a pro organization in a sense of how these guys are treated at the rink. I was really excited to see it all.”
The IceDogs open training camp Tuesday, Aug. 27. They being the regular season at home against the Sudbury Wolves on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Three of the IceDogs’ six exhibition games will be played locally: Friday, Aug. 30, Vale Centre, Port Colborne, versus the Barrie Colts; Saturday, Aug. 31, Leisureplex, Fort Erie, Windsor Spitfires; Friday, Sept. 13, Fleming Memorial Centre, Beamsville, Peterborough Petes.
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