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12/03/2005 8:47 AM - Griffins center Eric Manlow accepts a position of authority both on and off the ice

Story and photo by Mark Newman

Eric Manlow leads a double life.

With the Griffins, he is one of the team’s most respected veterans, a well-traveled player with nearly 700 professional games to his credit, an intelligent playmaker who sets the right example for all of the younger guys to follow.

Away from the ice, it’s nothing but girls, girls and girls.

If you’re thinking bar-hopping and wild, all-night parties, you’re knocking on the wrong door. Manlow is hockey’s ultimate family man, as his wife Heather and four daughters will attest.

The youngest, Jaime, was born last June 29, joining Kaitlyn, 6; Julie, 4; and Lauren, 2.

“Sometimes when a Tim Horton’s commercial comes on television that shows little boys playing hockey, my wife feels for me, but not having a boy it’s a problem,” Manlow says.

“We’re obviously blessed with four healthy girls and we wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

With four girls in a little more than six years, the Manlows hear remarks about how they must have their hands full. “I say wait until their teen years,” Manlow chuckles. “Until they’re running around in makeup and dresses, I’ll be OK.”

Manlow admits things can get a little hectic, especially when he’s away on a road trip and his wife has to keep track of the older three with the little one.

“It gets tougher because she has to take all four if she wants to get out of the house – she can’t just leave with one,” he says. “She does an amazing job.”

Manlow says Heather hasn’t gone overboard with dressing them in the same clothes, although there are times when it helps if they are all wearing something similar.

“We’ve found it’s actually easier when you go to the big parks in the summertime. You might have 100 kids out there and it’s a lot easier to pick out four of yours if they’re wearing the same color or same style of sweatshirt.”

Having four girls also helps with the clothing budget. “With kids, they might wear a shirt two or three times before they grow out of it,” Manlow says. “We’re not looking for hand-me-downs, but it’s a lot more cost-effective, that’s for sure.”

It also allowed the Manlow family to stay in its current home in Niagara Falls, Ontario. “When we were pregnant with our fourth, we figured we would have to get another home if we had a boy, just because of the bedroom situation,” he says.

With four girls, two could share a room, which allowed the Manlow a certain extravagance.

“Instead of moving and putting money into a new house, we had the opportunity to put in a pool. We felt the kids are young enough, they were going to use it.

“We talked to other people who said that you could wait until the kids are older but then nobody will use it.”

So Manlow installed an in-ground pool this past summer. Actually, he hired the job out. “There would still be a hole sitting in my backyard if I had tried to do it myself,” he says.

Together with an interlocking deck, the pool almost covers the entire backyard. “There’s basically no grass left, so it makes it easy for me because there’s nothing to cut.”

The pool was an immediate hit. “We’d wake up at 8 o’clock every morning and, the first thing, they’re running to get on their suits and get ready to jump in.”

This past summer provided the perfect weather for swimming and the girls took to the water like ducks.

“Our 6-year-old was doing back flips off the diving board after day one and the 4-year-old can swim easily without help. Our 2-year-old was a little frightful at first, but now you put the water wings on her and she loves it.”

Watching them play in the pool wasn’t too taxing. “Dad could sit in the floating chair and let the kids swim around him,” Manlow says.

Of course, life in Niagara Falls isn’t a complete vacation. During the summer, Manlow runs a Turf Guard Irrigation business with three brothers-in-law.

“It’s great because you’re working with three guys you know and you only work nice days because there’s no sense digging a guy’s lawn when it’s pouring rain.”

The family business is a side project for the four brothers, two of whom have fulltime security jobs and two who still play hockey (Colin Pepperall plays in the ECHL).

“The four of us do all the work, from driving the tractor that puts the pipe in the ground to myself hooking up the electrical clocks. The only thing we don’t do is the plumbing from inside the house.

“Everyone carries their load and we work well together. It was nice having a pool this summer because we’d get done with a job at 5 or 6 o’clock and then jump into the pool to cool off and have a barbecue.”

As much as his girls have taken to the water, Manlow admits that they haven’t had as much exposure to the frozen variety, other than the occasional visit to the arena to watch their dad play.

“People are surprised by that but we really haven’t had the time,” he says. “We’re not going to push them into hockey, but we’d really like them to learn to skate. It’s been tough to get them to the rink with the baby and all, and it’s not like they’re boys where they can run around the dressing room.”

The Manlows enrolled their two older daughters in a youth soccer program this past summer. “It was an hour every Saturday morning where they got a half-hour of instruction and a half-hour of game-like action.

“At 9 o’clock in the morning with our coffee, our eyes might have been only half-open but we had a ball watching them play for the first time. We thought they did really well.”

Manlow feels sports are important for kids for any number of reasons. “Just to let them run around and interact with other children is good,” he says. “They also learn to listen to a coach and deal with instruction. It’s like a building block for them.”

Being the parent of four girls, Manlow realizes hockey may not be their first choice. “I’ll have to learn more about gymnastics and dance,” he says. “It’s OK. I still have a couple of nephews I can ride about playing hockey.”

Besides, he’ll probably have other things to worry about. “My wife has a sister who’s a year older and her parents said they were a handful, so I’m sure we will have our hands full as they get older.”

Can you say “boyfriends?”

“I’m not even going to start thinking about those years,” Manlow says. “I’m just trying to enjoy that part of life when they don’t even know anything about those things!”

Manlow is certainly enjoying life at the hockey rink, where he’s off to one of the best years of his career, this being his 11th season as a professional.

Through the first 14 games, he had scored nine goals and added 10 assists.

“I think I had seven goals in seven games during my first year in Bridgeport (2002-03), playing on a line with Trent Hunter and Mattias Weinhandl,” he says, noting that the whole line was called up by the New York Islanders.

Manlow knows it might be too much to ask, but he wouldn’t mind if similar fortune smiled on his current line with Jiri Hudler and Kent McDonell.

“Things are going really well,” he says, understating the obvious. “I certainly can’t complain. We got the ball rolling right off the bat and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Manlow attributes the success of the line to the elevated play of Hudler. “It makes my job and Kent’s job a lot easier when you’ve got a guy like Hudler who can do a lot of things with a hockey puck.

“When you can get him the puck, he can score on most of his opportunities. If we didn’t have Jiri on our line, it’s doubtful that Kent and I would have the points we do.”

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