Greg Pankewicz would be the first and among the most notorious characters to ever suit up for the Manitoba Moose. During his two seasons with the Moose, he was their leading goal scorer and one of their top offensive threats, but he would become much better known for his explosive temper than his scoring prowess, making him a frequent target of opponents who would goad him into taking silly penalties. No player in history ever abused a penalty box door at the Winnipeg Arena more than Greg Pankewicz.
Fred Brathwaite would become one of the brightest success stories in Moose history. Acquired just before the start of the 1996-1997 season, he quickly assumed the starter’s role and the popular goaltender excelled for two seasons before being mysteriously discarded. Undaunted, Brathwaite went on to star in the NHL for several seasons, resurrecting a career that seemed all but over before coming to the Moose. In addition to making saves, Brathwaite would establish himself as one the best puck-handling goaltenders in the game and he was the only goaltender in the IHL’s 56-year history to score a goal.
Once a highly regarded NHL prospect, Ralph Intranuovo came to the Moose to try and salvage his career. Instead, he would only show Moose fans why the NHL had given up on him. He was a marvellously talented player who could literally skate rings around others at this level, only to seemingly disappear for games at a time. He put up some good numbers with the Moose, but will be remembered as a player who performed far below his talent level.
Acquired early in the 1997-1998 season, Brian F. Chapman quickly became a stalwart on the blue line for the Moose and would establish himself as arguably the greatest player in the history of the franchise. A stay-at-home defenseman, Chapman represented the team on and off the ice with the utmost amount of class until being callously handed his walking papers a month before training camp in 2003.
Bless his heart, no one tried harder than defenseman Brett Hauer during his four years with the Moose. He was a gifted offensive defenseman, but he would best be known for the tragic story behind being denied an opportunity to move up. With NHL jobs coming available due to expansion, the Edmonton Oilers, who owned Hauer’s NHL rights, repeatedly blocked his chances and by the time he was free of the Oilers’ clutches, his window of opportunity had closed. Nonetheless, Hauer never let his disappointment affect his play and he was one of the few bonafide stars the Moose had during their years in the IHL.
No one would play longer with the Moose than Jimmy Roy, one of the most reviled agitators in pro hockey at any level. Never a spectacular scorer, Roy’s special talent was getting under the skin of opposing players. Whenever there was a skirmish on the ice, odds were high that Jimmy Roy was the match that lit the fuse.
Johan Hedberg was became the most famous player to ever don a Moose uniform. His first tour of duty was not spectacular, but when he returned in 1999, he instantly established himself one of the league’s best goaltenders. The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins took notice and a legend was soon born. He took the NHL by storm and because he was still wearing his Moose mask, Pittsburgh fans took to yelling “MOOOOOOSE” after he made a save. He would proudly carry that moniker for the remainder of his long and distinguished NHL career.
An unheralded player during his four-year tenure with the Moose, Mike Ruark would develop into one of their most reliable blueliners. What he lacked in skill and finesse, he made up for with toughness and getting the job done in his own end of the rink.
Bill Bowler was the most offensively gifted player the Moose had during their years in the IHL. A wizard with the puck, the diminutive Bowler might have enjoyed a long career in the NHL had he been born a few years later so he could take advantage of rule changes that allowed smaller, skilled players to flourish. As it was, Bowler was outstanding with the Moose and had the distinction of scoring the franchise’s most memorable goal when the Moose eliminated the Milwaukee Admirals in double overtime in 1999 to capture their first-ever playoff series victory.
Without a doubt, Jason Shmyr was the toughest hombre ever to suit up for the Moose. Popular with his teammates, respected for his work ethic and feared around the league, he carved out a legendary reputation for his pugilistic talents during his one IHL season with the Moose.
Best known as a player once traded for Wayne Gretzky, Patrice Tardif was a player not unlike Ralph Intranuovo, who was unable to parlay his immense talent into a better career. Like Greg Pankewicz, he was easily goaded into taking silly penalties and no one fit the time-honored line of the “million-dollar arm, fifty-cent head” better than him. His antics were entertaining at times, but even though he put up some decent numbers, he really wasn’t much of a help to the Moose.
No player in Moose history parlayed a Manitoba birth certificate into a regular job better than Cory Cyrenne. He was dominant in the junior ranks, but he looked utterly lost and was badly overmatched with the Moose, who kept him on the roster only because of his Manitoba heritage.
No Hollywood script writer could invent a better fighter than Mel Angelstad. He was easily the biggest “celebrity” fighter the Moose ever had and often bragged about his 30-40 fight seasons the way a sniper would tout his goal production. In addition to being the ultimate showman and standing up for his teammates, he handled himself well when pressed into duty on the blue line.
Sean Pronger was a hard-working centerman whose claim to fame was being the less-celebrated brother of NHL star Chris Pronger. He was well respected by his teammates, but he had the worst scoring touch around the net of any player to ever don a Moose uniform. After his career, he would write a book entitled Journeyman detailing his many stops throughout hockey.
Mark Chipman’s first hire, Jean Perron signed a three-year contract to become the Manitoba Moose’s first head coach and general manager and wouldn’t even finish a third of it. Given a late start, Perron had one strike against him before ever taking over and, not surprisingly, struggled to put together a competitive team. His acidic style exacerbated the team’s sagging fortunes and with the Moose languishing near the bottom of the league standings, Chipman made the decision to prematurely pull the plug on his tenure. Perron’s lasting legacy would be his post-game press conferences that were more entertaining than his team’s play.
Randy Carlyle first joined the Moose as Jean Perron’s assistant, then was elevated to becoming Mark Chipman’s assistant after Perron’s dismissal. He was an outstanding player for the Jets, but his performance behind the Moose bench was anything but extraordinary. He lasted for more than four years mostly because of his larger-than-life persona in Winnipeg and because of Chipman’s unshakable loyalty to his favorite crony.
Mark Chipman rose from being a last-minute entry into the Thompson group to becoming the Hockey Czar of Winnipeg. After firing Jean Perron, arguably the most hands-on owner in the game took the reins of the franchise himself and with Randy Carlyle’s assistance, he would cut his teeth in these years in preparation for his taxpayer-funded apprenticeship as an NHL general manager years later. On the business side, he would frequently whine and complain about low attendance while doing virtually nothing to market the team.