Moe Mantha is back in the OHL as the interim coach of the Saginaw Spirit.
More than a decade ago, Mantha was suspended for the entire season by the Windsor Spitfires for a hazing incident that took place on the team bus while Mantha served as general manager and coach of the team. He was suspended for an additional 15 games due to a fight between then Spitfires Steve Downie and Akim Aliu.
The OHL suspended Mantha for 40 games and fined the team $35,000 in addition to the suspension he received from the Spitfires.
Mantha at the time, and in years to follow claimed he wasn’t aware of the hostilities in the room and on the bus.
Years later, the 12-year veteran of the NHL found himself back behind the bench of an OHL franchise when Saginaw hired him as their interim coach during the 2003-04 season after the club fired then head coach Dennis Desrosiers.
Mantha went 3-38-2-4 during his first tenure as interim coach of the Spirit.
Now he finds himself in the same situation years later: serving as interim coach of a Spirit club that could be so much better.
Saginaw’s 20-29-3-3 on the season, good enough for eighth place in the OHL’s Western Conference.
But with players like Kris Bennett and Connor Brown already having pretty good years, it seems as though the Spirit just needs a bit of a push and a slightly different message to play to their potential, and Mantha is the the man for the job.
He Knows How To Win
After coaching opportunities in the ECHL, AHL, and OHL, Mantha returned to Michigan in 2010 to coach the Tier II Michigan Warriors junior hockey club based in Flint. The team made two appearances in the league championships when Mantha was at the helm.
But when the Plymouth Whalers moved to Flint to become the Firebirds, the junior hockey market in that city became a little too cramped for the Warriors to continue playing.
Mantha joined the Spirit at the beginning of the 2015 season, where the 55 year-old was hired as the Northern Ontario Scout while also coaching the French River Rapids of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
— Robert Mazzuca (@nojhlcommish) February 16, 2016
“Sometimes, all a team needs when they are struggling is a new message by a new messenger and I have confidence that Moe will get the best out of our players down the stretch and into the playoffs,” Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin said in a press release.
“Moe Mantha comes from a hockey family. He is a positive, high energy head coach with 20+ years of coaching experience. We are grateful that he was able to adjust from his scouting position with us to fill the role behind the bench as our interim head coach. Our obligation and commitment is to our player’s development both on and off the ice. We believe in our players and their ability to compete at a very high level.”
Mantha began his tenure as interim coach beating the Sarnia Sting 5-2 Wednesday night.
Saginaw will begin their search for a permeant coach at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 season.
Ben Smith covers the CHL for The Hockey Writers. He also writes for HockeyNow Magazine, FlamesNation and SB Nation.