Philly guy Brett Manney right at home with the Black Wolves
Late Saturday afternoon, Brett Manney will leave his townhouse, one referred to in Philadelphia as a trinity home, and take an Uber or a taxi ride the 10-15 minutes to the Wells Fargo Center at 3601 South Broad Street to play for the New England Black Wolves against the Philadelphia Wings.
Manney grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia, a place called Newtown, where he considered himself a "4 for 4" fan, or a member of the legions of those who root for the city's four major professional sports teams, the Eagles, Flyers, 76ers and Phillies.
"I went to a 76ers game this past weekend," Manney was saying earlier this week. "In my closet now I have multiple Eagles shirts. I have a lot of great memories and a lot of sad ones, too. We've had many tough years."
Manney, originally signed by the National Lacrosse League's San Jose Stealth in 2009 (now in Vancouver), was traded to the Wings in 2010. He then migrated north to New England in 2014 when the Philadelphia franchise moved to its new home at Mohegan Sun Arena, rebranded as the Black Wolves.
Manney, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound defenseman, was named this season as the Black Wolves' captain after serving as assistant captain the last three seasons.
And so it will be that Manney, Philadelphia native, city resident and businessman and former Philly professional athlete, will take the floor for New England wearing the captain's "C" emblazoned on his jersey as the Black Wolves play the expansion version of the Wings, in their inaugural season.
The Black Wolves (4-3) play the Wings (1-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Philadelphia and again at 3 p.m. Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena.
As it turns out, the 33-year-old Manney, despite his lengthy history in the city with the Liberty Bell and the Rocky Statue, is right where he wants to be with the Black Wolves.
"I'm in an incredible situation. I wouldn't trade it for the world," Manney said in a telephone interview from Philadelphia, where he spends the workweek before generally flying out for weekend games, including those at the Sun.
"I think outside of the guys that live in Ontario and Vancouver, I'm one of a few guys that lives in a city that has an NLL team and does not play for them. But I've been with the organization now for nine years (five in New England). I'm a very loyal guy and they've been good to me. This is something I want to see grow. I want to win a championship in New England. I love the guys that are on the team. It's a great situation.
"I didn't think twice (about not asking to be traded back to Philadelphia this season). There's no better place than what's going on in New England."
When the Wolves play at home, Manney flies into Providence or Hartford. Sometimes, as he will when he returns to Philly after Sunday's game at Mohegan, he can even make the trip by train.
"I fly to Hartford or Providence, get picked up in a limo with food," Manney said. "Once I get there, I'm never outside. I pack a light hoodie and pants. I know so many great people that are there. It's my home away from home."
'The best respect'
Manney, who has a twin brother, Ryan, was a three-sport athlete at Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, where he has since been inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. He calls basketball his "most skilled sport" — the Firebirds went 31-1 and lost in the state championship game his senior year — but admitted with an "OK-at-best" jump shot, lacrosse was the sport where he presented the greatest up side.
He went on to play Division I lacrosse at the University of Delaware, leading the Blue Hens to two NCAA tournament appearances and to the first Final Four berth in program history in 2007.
Manney was assistant captain of the 2015 U.S. Men's National Team which won the bronze medal at the Federation of International Lacrosse World Indoor Championship in Syracuse and he was named in October to the U.S. Lacrosse Indoor Training Team in preparation for the 2019 World Championship to be held in September in Langley, British Columbia.
"My dad was the basketball guy," Manney said, crediting his parents, Jim and Kathy. "He grew up in Philadelphia and he taught me how to play the game of basketball the right way, with intelligence and fortitude. And I had my mom's zest as a parent. I never wanted to let my parents down.
"When I was really young, my father ... I had to play on an intramural team on the weekend in order to be able to play for my travel team, and my father said, 'You're going to be the best player on the court, but it doesn't matter.' I just looked at doing what I could to help my team win. I didn't care about scoring or any individual sports."
That's still how New England coach Glenn Clark — in his fourth season as head coach and a former defender, himself, in the NLL — describes Manney, as having intelligence and fortitude.
"We actually put it out to the group and got input from the players," Clark said this week of Manney's captaincy. "He was a unanimous choice. He has the cliche built-in things, tenure with the team, but just the way he conducts himself. He operates as a pro. He's a good ambassador. He keeps guys accountable. He gives you what he's got. He brings a lot to our group.
"As a player, as a defender, he's world class."
Manney is the only U.S.-born captain of an NLL team and, in fact, as he adds up American players in the league — the indoor game, known as box lacrosse, originated in Canada — he can only come up with approximately 16 total on the 11 teams.
"They rag on Americans because of how we play, our hands and our shooting. We make fun of the way they pronounce things," Manney, who is attempting to lead the Black Wolves to their fourth straight playoff bid, said with a laugh.
"Just my background being an American ... the best respect is peer respect, having the respect of your teammates (who chose him captain). All I care about is the team. How is our team going to get better? We don't need a superstar. We need everyone pitching in and doing it together."
Rooted in Philly
Outside the NLL, Manney is the vice president of event sales and recruiting for NXTsports, a Philadelphia-based company which runs lacrosse camps and clinics, as well as lacrosse tournaments and recruiting showcases throughout the country. Manney helps match high school players with college teams.
His office is at 4747 South Broad Street in the city, from which he can see the Wells Fargo Center.
It was his honor, he said, to play for the original Wings, a proud franchise which has more overall championships, six, than any other team since the league originated as the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League in 1987.
"I loved every second," Manney said of playing in Philly. "The city, the fans were incredible. I was more happy for the city of Philadelphia and the fans (when the team made its return this year). It's a great lacrosse city.
"I'm a Philadelphia sports fan. Honestly, I'm cut from the same cloth they are. The fans are the best sports fans in the world. They're incredible. I'm happy for them because something got taken away from them (when the original Wings left). When the time does come when I'm done playing, I can go back to New England and Mohegan whenever I can, but I can also enjoy when the Black Wolves play in Philadelphia."
As they will for the first time Saturday.
Manney chuckles at the notion that he is the best-dressed guy on the Black Wolves — "usually you don't hear 'best-dressed guy on the team' and 'Philadelphia' in the same sentence," he said, "someone called us the sweatpants city of the United States." But since players have to wear suits to the game, he has flirted with a few different styles. His tailor will be at Saturday's game.
As to how his body, at 33, handles the punishment of being a defender, Manney said: "I'd like to say I dish out more than I get."
"I never thought that would have been the case," Manney said of his longevity in the league. "The first time I was playing box was at training camp. Here I am sitting on year 11. I love it. It love it. I'm thankful for my health, teammates and coaches.
"Every year I learn a little bit more."
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