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Penguins Penguins' Manderville combines hockey, Ivy League education

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Kent Manderville stood in front of his locker after the Penguins' game-day skate at Philips Arena Friday, discussing their 13-game winning streak against Atlanta, and the chances of stretching it to 14 that evening.

Kent Manderville battles Canadiens defenseman Stephane Quintal for the puck last week in Montreal's 5-4 overtime victory. (Paul Chiasson, Associated Press)

And doing it in a way like few, if any, of his teammates.

"It's not like we're flipping a coin," Manderville said. "If you flip a coin, no matter if you get 13 'heads' in a row, there's still a 50-50 chance of getting 'tails' the next time.

"Previous outcomes won't affect this outcome. There's no way that, because it's 13-0, you're going to say, 'Reversion to the mean. It has to go to 13-13 sometime, or 50-50.'"

Reversion to the mean. Not exactly one of hockey's hallowed cliches. Lots of guys will address any subject with a variation of the "we just have to work harder" theme; precious few slip "reversion to the mean" into the conversation.

Then again, not many players with pro aspirations pass on a chance to compete in major-junior hockey because of concerns about logistics, then turn up in the Ivy League.

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Manderville did just that, declining an offer to play for Victoria of the Western Hockey League. Because that franchise was based on Vancouver Island, west of the British Columbia mainland, simply getting to and from games would make the league's already grueling travel even worse.

The Cougars, Manderville said, would bus from wherever they had played to Vancouver, then spend the night at the ferry terminal before catching an early-morning boat across the Strait of Georgia.

"That didn't appeal to me," he said.

But an Ivy League education did, so he accepted a scholarship from Cornell and spent a couple of winters there after being claimed by Calgary with the 24th choice in the 1989 entry draft.

Manderville had a pretty fair, albeit brief, career with the Big Red, putting up 28 goals and 29 assists in 54 career games.

Not bad numbers, although he was somewhat overshadowed by teammate Dan Ratushny, who had been claimed by Winnipeg one spot behind Manderville in the '89 draft.

"He was an All-American and captain," Manderville said.

What's more, he wasn't the only Ratushny who outdid Manderville at Cornell. It seems that Ratushny's sister, Kim, was a highly acclaimed women's hockey player there before accepting the role of Manderville's linemate for life.

"She was inducted to Cornell Sports Hall of Fame," Manderville said. "I will never be inducted. I only spent two years there. I didn't make an impact like she did. She's one of the top scorers there."

Even if he never gets a place in the school's Hall of Fame, Manderville is determined to earn a place on its alumni list. So even though he left Cornell in 1991, he hasn't given up pursuit of a degree in Finance and Investments.

"I'm a senior now," he said. "I've been grinding it out. It's been difficult. I was making more headway when I first left, but I'm definitely going to get [a diploma].

"I have great aspirations during the hockey season, but it's such a physical and psychological grind to play the game that if I can get I can get one class done in each semester every year, I'll be happy. That would be a timetable of five more years.

"To put that in perspective, I lived with a family my second year that had a three-year-old and an eight-year-old. The eight-year old is a junior this year and will graduate ahead of me, and I've going to be very, very close -- like, neck-and-neck -- with the three-year-old to graduate with him. Maybe we'll have a graduation party together."

Whether Manderville actually will cross paths with that child someday, at a commencement ceremony or otherwise, is impossible to say. He can be certain, though, that he'll see some familiar faces when the Penguins meet Philadelphia at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow at Mellon Arena.

The Penguins acquired Manderville from the Flyers for Billy Tibbetts March 17 -- how's that for an exchange of similar personalities -- and two of his teammates there, Paul Ranheim and Keith Primeau, also played with him in Hartford and Carolina.

Indeed, Manderville and Ranheim were linemates in all three places, so it's no surprise that they stay in fairly regular contact.

Philadelphia is just one of the teams for which Manderville has played --Toronto, Edmonton, Hartford and Carolina are on the list, too -- but his role has stayed largely the same, regardless of the sweater he's wearing.

And even though there's not much glory in laboring on a checking line, killing penalties and taking faceoffs, blue-collar forwards like Manderville are an important part of the personnel mix for any successful team.

"Doing what I do, I believe, is valuable," he said. "Has a value in its own right."

That doesn't mean, though, that Manderville, who has 36 goals and 62 assists in 584 NHL games, anticipated filling such a niche before reaching the league.

"I wasn't thinking I was going to be Mike Bossy," he said. "But I was probably touted to score more than I have."

At age 31, Manderville figures to hold onto his basic job description for the balance of his career. Still, there's always the possibility he'll enjoy a stretch during which he's good for a point per game, the way he was at Cornell. Or that he'll have a game like March 12, 1997, when he rang up a hat trick against Boston.

And that would be one mean reversion.

Dave Molinari can be reached at 412-263-1144.

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