In the 1982-83 season the Minnesota North Stars knew they would have a pretty good rookie in their lineup. After all, Brian Bellows was the much coveted high draft pick the previous summer. He would go on to become one of the best players in franchise history.
But they did not expect a hulking defenseman from Ohio State to force his way on to the team.
"Far and away, he's the surprise of camp," agreed general manager Lou Nanne. "We knew he was pretty good when we brought him here, but we didn't think he'd look this good this soon."
Mandich had just graduated from Ohio State and was in his first pro camp. Blessed with good size at six-foot-three and 205 pounds, he was an offensive defenseman in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. At that level scouts praised him for his excellent hands, good speed, and his willingness to use his size with just a hint of a mean streak. He graduated with 617 collegiate penalty minutes, the most in NCAA history at the time.
Mandich was never drafted, and attended Minnesota's camp as a free agent. He spent the entire season with the North Stars, scoring just three goals and seven points, while accumulating 169 penalty minutes. He seemed to have a running personal feud with Chicago's Al Secord, but also tangled with the likes of Clark Gillies, Garry Howatt and Jim Peplinski.
Thought that would be Mandich's only full NHL season, he was a NHL regular for the next three seasons when health allowed him to play. He ran into a nasty streak of injuries, notably a knee injury. He would only get into 44 games over those three seasons (plus six more games in the minor leagues) before retiring.
Dan Mandich stayed in the Minneapolis area and became a financial advisor.