Brandon Manning plays with an edge and doesn't back down against bigger opponents. Those qualities have made him a valuable member of the Flyers' young defense.
He comes by his fearlessness honestly.
Manning's father, Leroy, set a good example. He has been a firefighter for the last 28 years, and some of his courage — and desire to help others — has rubbed off on his son.
On Wednesday, Manning and teammate Scott Laughton spent time with patients and staff members at the Temple Burn Center. A few months ago, Manning created an apparel line called "Mandog" — his nickname — and proceeds are donated to the Temple Burn Center.
"Being a pro athlete, there's an obligation to give back a little bit," Manning said the other day. "And with me being in Philly for a while and being a little more established, I felt it was an opportunity to do something. With my dad being a firefighter, I'm familiar with burn [victims] and those type of situations, and when we found Temple, it was a real good fit."
Manning said it was an eye-opener when he visited patients.
"It's one of those things where you kind of get away from hockey a little bit and realize there's worse things in the world out there," Manning said. "It keeps you humble at the same time."
Leroy Manning, 55, is still a firefighter in Prince George, British Columbia, which is where Brandon was raised.
Growing up, Manning considered following in his father's footsteps.
"It's always been in the back of my mind," he said. "When I was in high school there were a few programs and first-aid stuff and it was something I was comfortable with and interested in. And then hockey kind of took off."
In his first few years in the AHL, Manning thought about taking a firefighting course in Toronto during the offseason.
"He grew up around it, and he knows it's such a great, rewarding career," Leroy Manning said in phone interview from Prince George.
"It was eight weeks in the summer," Brandon Manning said of the course, "and I wasn't quite ready to give up that training time to put myself in the position I'm in now. But it's always an option for me [down the road]. At the lake back home, there's a volunteer fire department and last year I thought about putting some time in there. Obviously, it's tough now because hockey comes first, taking care of your injuries and training."
Manning, 27, underwent back surgery in the offseason. He has recovered nicely and been a steady performer. His veteran presence has been needed on a defense that includes two rookies (and sometimes three) and two players in their second full seasons.
"He's stepped up into that role and given us some stability back there," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Brandon is a guy who's been through the battles before. He's also done a good job at picking his spots on when to step up and make his voice be heard."
Manning realizes that there are no guarantees, that when the injured Andrew MacDonald returns to the lineup in a week or so, one defenseman figures to sit. He knows it could be him, despite solid play that produced two goals, four points, and a plus-5 rating in his first 11 games.
In other words, he's not taking his regular spot for granted.
"When you get complacent, when you get too comfortable, that's when athletes or people tend to slack off a bit," he said. "I'm never going to be comfortable. You see the stuff with waivers now and guys going down and young guys coming in. I don't think you can ever be satisfied."
When MacDonald returns, the Flyers will have seven defensemen for six spots.
"It's just about building every game and helping your team win," said Manning, who has been paired recently with Shayne Gostisbehere. "Right now, if I can help us win and continue to get better, that'll help everyone."
Meanwhile, Manning's firefighter career is on hold for several years.
"It's definitely something that interests me. I'm proud of my dad for doing it," Manning said. "I know what those guys go through."
His father feels likewise about his son.
"It's pretty surreal watching him on TV, especially loving hockey the way I do," Leroy Manning said.
He feels honored that Brandon Manning is doing work for burn victims.
"I'm proud of him just for being the person he is," he said of his son, the defenseman who plays with the heart of a firefighter.