Monday, April 16, 2012

Tom Manastersky: 1929-2012

On March 11, 2012, former Montreal Canadien and Montreal Alouette (Canadian Football League), Tom Manastersky, passed away at the age of 83.

Looking back on his career in sports, 1949 was a banner year for young Tom Manastersky. In the spring of '49 he helped the Montreal Royals (QJHL) capture the Memorial Cup. Total Hockey - The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League - described the series between Montreal and the Brandon Wheat Kings as "one of the greatest series in hockey history." The best-of-seven championship went to eight games, with one contest ending in a draw, before the Royals were declared last team standing.

In the deciding encounter, with play underway in the third, Montreal trailed Brandon by a score of 4 to 2. Luckily for the Royals, there was plenty of time left on the clock for them to mount a huge comeback. Their 6 to 4 victory resulted in Manastersky and his teammates being crowned Memorial Cup Champs.

As 1949 was coming to a close, there was one more challenge for Manastersky to tackle. This came on the football field. Working on the Montreal Alouettes special teams - kickoff and punt returns - Manastersky and coach Lew Hayman's squad advanced to the Grey Cup game in Toronto. In addition to special teams, he lined-up in the halfback position for Montreal.

Once again, the 5-foot-9, 185 pound, Manastersky was on the winning side. The Alouettes defeated Calgary 28 to 15.

The following year, 1950, Manastersky was named Montreal's "Athlete of the Year" for his play with the Royals and Alouettes.

In mid-December 1950, with the football season over, Manastersky returned to the ice. He joined the Montreal Royals of the Quebec Senior Hockey League and took part in six workouts with the team. While getting into hockey-shape, he didn't participate in any league games.

During this time, the NHL Canadiens were in a five game slump and managing director, Frank Selke, took steps to correct his teams down slide. His first move involved Manastersky, who was summoned from the Royals for a three game tryout.

On December 14, 1950, Tom Manastersky played in his first National Hockey League contest with the Montreal Canadiens. He made his debut before 5,086 spectators in Madison Square Garden, as the Habs faced the New York Rangers. Although Manastersky didn't play many minutes on Montreal's blueline, a game report did note, "the former amateur showed up well during his few appearances."

With Tony Leswick scoring two goals, New York edged Montreal 3 to 2.

Frank Dean, writing in The Hockey News, provided this assessment of Manastersky's initial NHL effort. "Tommy's performance in the NHL (he's had one year of Senior) was a little short of sensational and he worked like a man who felt he belonged," observed the Montreal scribe.

By all accounts, Manastersky was a physical defenceman who didn't shy away when the action heated up. This was evident when Montreal visited Toronto for a game in Maple Leaf Gardens against the Leafs on December 20, 1950.

Just as Manastersky was trying to impress Selke and company, a newcomer to the Leafs line-up was attempting to make an impact. Fern Flaman, obtained by the Leafs from Boston, was making his first appearance in a Leaf uniform. Since the trade, he was skating for the Pittsburgh Hornets in the American Hockey League.

As time was running down in the third period, Manasterky cross-checked Flaman and the two defencemen squared-off to settle the matter.

Although Manastersky had a brief stay in the NHL - six games during the 1950-51 campaign - his desire to play didn't fade. Following his stint with the Canadiens, he finished his hockey career in '50-51 playing for three teams - Cincinnati Mohawks (AHL - 5 games), Victoria Cougars (PCHL - 18 games) and the Montreal Royals (QMHL - 1 game).

His time in the Canadian Football League came to an end in 1954 when he was on the roster of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Timothy "Tommy" Manastersky was born on March 7, 1929 in Montreal, Quebec. He passed away in Toronto on March 11, 2012.

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