by Joel Smart (Sports Editor)
If you’ve been to South Fraser Way in Abbotsford after a Canuck’s first round playoff victory then you might be under the impression that the team really caters to an Indian audience. In fact, the team has never had an Indian player on its roster before; that is, until they picked up the experienced center Manny Malhotra as an unrestricted free agent this summer after a great postseason with the San Jose Sharks.
Malhotra, drafted in 1998, is actually the only player in the league of Indian descent at present, and only the second of all-time. He was born in Mississauga, Ontario, and learned to speak both French and English. This is because his mother Lise Malhotra, who has a doctorate in biochemistry, is French Canadian. His father, Shadi Malhotra, is originally from Lahore, capital of Punjab and second largest city in Pakistan. Despite her doctorate, Lise Malhotra became a stay at home mother in order to raise Manny, his two brothers and his sister. It was his mother’s love of Montreal Canadiens’ hockey that encouraged him to play. She instilled in him a tireless work ethic, both on and off the ice, putting academic work first. Due to this, he actually won the 1998 Bobby Smith trophy in the OHL as Scholastic Player of the Year.
In 2000, Malhotra lead the Canadian team in the World Junior Championships to a Bronze medal as team captain. He also donned the Canadian sweater in a previous World Juniors, in under-18 competition, and even in the 2002 World Championships series.
One of Malhotra’s greatest strengths is his ability to win a faceoff. He actually learned this skill from Craig McTavish, who was an assistant coach for the New York Rangers in his rookie year. He stayed with the Rangers for four seasons, and late in the 2001-2002 season, was traded to the Dallas stars where he stayed for three seasons. In the 2003-2004 season, he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he had several incredible seasons. He was with them until 2009, when he had played 71 games, had 33 points and was a plus-17 with the San Jose Sharks. Now at age 30, Emmanuel Noveen Malhotra is a member of the Canucks, after signing a three-year deal with the club for $7.5 million. Team captain Henrik Sedin named Malhotra as an alternate captain for the squad to start the season.
Though few realize it, Malholtra has made uncles of both NBA star player Steve Nash and Vancouver Whitecaps player Martin Nash. Caleb Malhotra is the son of their sister Joann Nash and her husband, Manny Malhotra. The two were married in 2007.
Fans of the Canucks have already seen enough to find favour with the new Canucks’ center. In the coming months, they will likely learn to appreciate the way he outworks opponents, skating faster and hitting harder than they do in return. He is also an aggressive player on both ends of the rink, diving after pucks offensively or blocking shots in the defensive end. With the burn still stinging from passing up the red-hot, cheap Brendan Morrison to the Calgary Flames, of all teams, having a center like Malhotra begins to ease the pain.