Many Legace has achieved many things throughout his hockey career including the hoisting of the Stanley Cup. From the professional athlete to a professional coach, Legace has done it all. He experienced winning the gold medal in the 1993 World Juniors, attending the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics where he was awarded a silver medal. He even became an all-star, got to experience the “Palin Curse” firsthand, and eventually returned to where it all started all while being a loving father and husband.
Manny Legace was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1973. He began skating at the age of two and noted that his father was a major reason behind it.
“Me being Canadian, we were born with skates on. My dad was from New Brunswick and the Montreal Canadiens were his life. He would get together with friends and watch Jean Beliveau. So, when my dad had us, he had us in skates before the age of two,” Manny says. “If you’re Canadian, you’re skating.”
Over the years Legace began to compete during his younger years. Manny played for teams like the Alliston Hornets in the OJHL, the Vaughan Raiders in the COJHL and then stayed with them when the moved to the MetJAHL. Though, his career started when he signed with the Niagara Falls Thunder in the OHL. Legace would compete there from 1990-93 until he was selected to play for Team Canada in the 1993 World Juniors.
“It was always something I wanted to do. Being Canadian, the World Juniors were always a huge part of every Christmas,” Legace says. “Watching them over the years I always wanted to be like Stephane Fiset. I just remember wanting to be a part of Team Canada and putting that jersey on. I was extremely fortunate and lucky to receive an invitation to camp in the summer because I was a last-minute invite and thankfully things went my way.” says Legace. “I ended up making the team over a couple of guys who ended up going in the first round of the draft the following year.”
Team Canada was projected to finish sixth when they entered the World Juniors in Gävle, Sweden.
“The team we had was ridiculous. If you look back now, our team was the who’s-who of the NHL.” Says Legace. “We came together pretty fast, and we got lucky when we played Sweden, who had the team to beat.”
When Legace and Team Canada went to the World Juniors they did not expect to win it. Manny mentioned that he had great opportunity to play with NHL greats like Paul Kariya and Chris Pronger and that their work ethic was like no other.
Legace was named the goaltender of the tournament and Team Canada ended up holding a record of 6-1-0 throughout the tournament and ended up beating Team Sweden 5-4 in the gold medal game. This Sweden team was no light task either when guys like Peter Forsberg or Markus Naslund were coming down the ice at you. The dynamic duo combined for 55 points in seven games.
“It was pretty scary, they just scored 20 goals the game before us and I think Forsberg had eleven points and Naslund had nine or ten, something ridiculous. It was insane, and I was like this is not going to go well. The arena was packed, and it was the only time throughout the entire tournament that it was packed,” said Manny Legace. “It was a huge game in Gavle, Sweden and I was fortunate enough to be a part of that.”
Towards the end of the game “We were up 5-4 and the puck came into the corner to my left and all of a sudden Forsberg comes out with it and there’s four guys in there,” Manny says. “Forsberg passed it across, and I was lucky enough to tip it and I look up and there’s Naslund sitting in front of the net all by himself, so my heart fell out of my chest.”
After Manny’s miraculous World Junior run, he was able to land a spot with Team Canada for the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic games.
“Oh, it was insane! Everything you could possibly think of and what it is like was exactly what I pictured,” said Legace. “all the events and being able to attend them was amazing. The only thing I did not like was the opening ceremonies because it was forty below zero with wind and they made us stand outside, so it was freezing. But we were lucky because our tournament did not start until the next day, so we were able to walk, but we were not allowed to walk in the closing ceremonies because we were played that day. Altogether, it was a really really cool experience” Said Manny Legace.
Manny and Team Canada would earn silver in the Olympics after falling to Sweden 3-2.
After his experiences with Team Canada, Manny Legace was drafted 188th in the 8th round of the 1993 draft by the Hartford Whalers. Legace would spend his time with their AHL team, the Springfield Falcons, where he became their number one. Manny would spend four seasons with Springfield before the Whalers traded him to the Los Angeles Kings where he would get his first NHL start. Legace saw little time with the Kings and decided to sing a contract with the Detroit Red Wings on July 15ht, 1999.
Though, with Detroit having the duo of Chris Osgood and Ken Wregget, Manny was left unprotected. He was grabbed by the Vancouver Canucks and was then reclaimed by the Red Wings two weeks later after yet again being unprotected.
Legace would soon become a reliable goaltender for Detroit over time and would spend most of his career there.
“Dan Belisle, Jim Nill, and I all went to watch Manny play because we needed a back-up at the time,” said Mark Howe. “Manny was right at the top of our list for available players, and we all liked the way Manny played. We thought he fit the build and then through injuries and Manny’s good play, he became what we call a 1A-1B and ended up becoming a starter for us.”
Detroit’s scouts thought Manny was a great fit because of his abilities and what he was able to do for the team.
“His technique was very good, he had great speed and he was overall steady,” says Howe. “We were not looking for a goalie to come in and win games for us because we had a real strong team. We were looking for someone to come in and give the team a chance to win every night, which is what Manny did almost every night.
Legace solidified the back-up position behind Chris Osgood in the 2000-01 season and backing up again during the 2002-03 season behind Curtis Joseph.
Manny Legace would yet again become the back-up in 2001-02 behind NHL great, Dominik Hasek. Although, this time something great happened. Manny Legace got the honor of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
“I did not experience any stress when I was in the presence of those guys. My only goal was to go out and work hard, that was my only thought. Then I became Detroit’s starter in my fifth year,” says Legace. “Those first four years I tried to stay out of everyone’s way and when I played, I played my own game and stayed inside myself. I didn’t have to do anything extra because I knew I didn’t have to. If I could keep the goals against under three, you were almost guaranteed a win because the team was liable to score more.”
Manny’s home life was also a major thought in his mind whenever he would do something. Moving was tough because he had to think of his family. His children, Sabrina and Manny Jr. and his wife were going to have to go with him.
“Hockey came first. This is what I have to do, this is my job, and this is how I support my family. Did the kids suffer a little bit? Sure, because I was always on the road, but every summer. Every break they had, I wanted them,” said Manny. “I would send my mom and the kids to a trip somewhere. My mom would fly down and take them to Disney…those kids have been on more vacations than I’ll ever get to go on.”
“My only regret is that I missed so much time with them, but knowing I had to do it to support them, it was worth it. Hockey consumes home life and when I was divorced it was hard on everyone, but I am very lucky to have to amazing kids.” said Legace.
“It was definitely different than your average household. It was cool to be able to go into the locker room and meet all these professional athletes, but in a way, I lost some of the enjoyment of meeting NHL players because I did it so much,” said Manny Legace Jr. “It was so normal for me that whenever I met someone, there was a lack of being starstruck. It was normal for me to meet these guys, so it took away from that.”
“Home life wasn’t really different; I mean he wasn’t gone super long. It just felt like he was on a business trip. The road trips were a little longer, maybe a couple weeks, but other than that it wasn’t really too bad. Home life was not really affected because we saw him all the time. Once we got used to his schedule and routines, it was casual in my opinion.” Said Manny Jr.
After his admirable career as a Red Wing, Legace turned his focus to the St. Louis Blues after a rough playoff elimination the year before. Manny signed a one-year contract and would continue to stay in St. Louis for two more years.
Legace also experienced something odd in his time with the Blues. Manny was one who fell victim to the “Palin Curse” which was a thing happening across the NHL in 2008. Every time Sarah Palin would attend a game, the team would go on a losing streak. From the Flyers to the Blues, the curse was real.
Legace became the Blues number one goalie for two years and played in a total of 140 games, while backing up in his third year, Legace was eventually on placed on waivers and was signed by his original team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Manny would make his full circle by finishing where he started.
“The first NHL team I dressed for, was also the last team I dressed for,” said Legace. “It was kind of cool that it was the same organization and actually played my first and last game in the same arena, same net. So, it was a bookend career!” Manny Legace said while giving a slight chuckle.
His AHL career finished much like his NHL career. He started with the Springfield Falcons and ended with the Falcons in 2012.
“I lived in Springfield for seven or eight years and I have made a lot of great friends there. So, to go back and end it there was really cool. I do not think many people can say they’ve done that.” Said Legace.
After his great playing career, Legace would try out his broadcasting skills and joined Fox Sports Detroit in 2013 until he found his new and current career.
“I’ve always had goalie schools in Springfield and was interested in helping guys, it was fun for me. I knew I was going to retire halfway through the year because of the problems with my knees. So, I knew I was not able to meet the workout requirements to compete and I knew I wanted to coach so when t the job opened up in Springfield, I handed them my resume during my exit interview, and I was lucky enough to get hired by Columbus and I have been there ever since” said Manny Legace.
Manny Legace has been the goalie coach for the Blue Jackets for three years and shows no signs of retiring. Legace may not be in the net, but you can find him coaching his players as he tries to help the Blue Jackets goalies reach their highest potential.