Not Manning the fort

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

TORONTO -- For a brief moment, Blaine Manning toyed with the idea of rushing home to join the Rush.

It had been many years since Manning had played lacrosse in the Edmonton area and then all of a sudden, a new pro franchise popped up. The thought, though, was in and out of Manning's head with the same speed that the two-time NLL All-Pro can release his shot.

"It was in the back of my mind how cool it would be to play with my old friends and in front of my family. But it was in my mind quick and then I snapped out of it," said Manning, a standout forward for the Toronto Rock, who host the Rush tonight.

And to be clear, the Rock had no intention of letting Manning get away.

"There was some discussion in a joking manner," said A.J. Jomha, the Rush's director of lacrosse operations. "Their response was that he was unequivocally not on the table."

NLL'S TOP ROOKIE IN 2002

Manning would have been a great fit for the Rush. Just last season, the 25-year-old made a 10-point splash against Calgary, tied the franchise record with a six-goal burst against Minnesota, racked up one nine-point night and three eight-point performances and appeared in his second NLL all-star game. But even with the Rock off to such a poor start to the 2006 season, Manning wasn't prepared to give up his situation in Toronto for a move to Edmonton.

"These have been the best four years of my life - other than the fact we're 0-4 right now," said the Sherwood Park product and 2002 NLL Rookie of the Year.

Manning has helped the Rock win three Champion's Cups in the last four years and is among the highest-paid players in the league. Off the floor, he holds a job with the bond brokerage firm Shorcan where he works on million-dollar transactions every day.

He's also become a celebrity of sorts by appearing in a TV ad, delivering the line "Blaine Manning, Esquire."

"I've never heard the end of that," laughed Manning, who is currently third in Rock scoring with five goals and nine assists. "But I did get some nice watches out of it."

Perhaps he'd be willing to share some of that bling with the many familiar faces in the Rush lineup. Manning was the best man at Darren Hillier's wedding this past summer. He's played with Kevin Howard several times, suited up with Andrew Turner for Victoria in the 2003 Mann Cup, and his first coach in novice lacrosse was Jamey Bowen.

"Jamey was a guy that I always looked up to," said Manning. "He's such an unbelievable talent. I just love watching him play."

The admiration is mutual.

"I never dreamed he'd be as good as he is. I guess you could say the pupil has outshone the teacher,"said Bowen.

GREAT VISION

"When I was coaching him, he was kind of small but he had great vision.

"I was coming out of the league two years ago and he was just becoming a star. I think some of those younger guys thought it was pretty cool to play with me. Now I'm back in the league and I think it's pretty cool to be playing against him."


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