Mancari playing with heavy heart

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Mark Mancari loved his grandmother dearly.

Most of all, he'll miss her smile.

"Growing up, we were always going over to her place," Mancari said yesterday in the 67's dressing room. "No matter how bad a day it was for her or for us, she'd put on a smile and the whole room would smile."

He'd give her a hug and a kiss.

"The first thing she'd ask (in Italian) would be, 'Did you play hockey today?' "

His grandmother didn't understand the game well, but always enjoyed watching him play.

Friends of the family living in Ottawa would record the TV broadcasts of Mancari's games and send the tapes to London, Ont., so she could watch.

Last Friday, Mancari scored three goals in a win against Barrie and dedicated his game to his grandmother, Francesca Mancari.

She was ill and the family thought she might not have much time left.

They were right. She died at her home in London on Sunday at the age of 91.

Mark Mancari, the youngest of her 13 grandchildren, didn't learn the news until after his team's home game on Sunday night against Kitchener.

He drove home through a snowstorm to London the next morning, after a sleepless night, to attend the family's visitation at the funeral home.

On Tuesday, he and sister-in-law Tina drove to Kingston so he could play for the 67's against the Frontenacs.

In his last game before the funeral, Mancari scored three goals and had two assists in an Ottawa win.

"I just wanted to give it everything I had for her and for my family," he said.

Mancari and his sister-in-law drove back to London after the game and attended the funeral at St. Mary's Church on Wednesday morning.

"Being Italian, you're close to everyone in your family," he said. "Grandparents are probably the closest. You have your parents, but your grandparents are like a set of parents. They do everything for you."

His grandfather, Francesco, died 11 years ago.

Mancari and his father, Gabriel, left London yesterday morning and drove to Ottawa, arriving at the Civic Centre in time for afternoon practice.

The long journey to honour his nonna was complete.

He'll be in the lineup tonight when the 67's host the Brampton Battalion at 7:30.

"I'm very proud of him," said his father. "He and his grandmother were very close."


Videos

Photos