Manny Legace's shift from goalie to goalie coach is a memory that remains crystal clear in his mind.
He was 38, coming off his 18th year as a goalie and had just finished a solid season in 2011-12 with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League. Legace, 45, had already told his wife he planned to retire, with the pain in both knees increasing by the game, but there was one thing last thing to do.
He had an exit interview scheduled with Bruce Landon, then Falcons part-owner and GM, and former Blue Jackets assistant GM Chris MacFarland.
"I knew with the summertime, it would be too hard to get ready for a season again," Legace said. "So, we're sitting there and [MacFarland] goes, 'What's your plan for next year?' and I handed him my resume. He goes, 'Oh!' He was nice enough to hire me and I've been with the Blue Jackets ever since."
Legace will be with the Blue Jackets even more closely now, at the NHL level. He was promoted from goaltending coach with the Cleveland Monsters to goaltending coach in Columbus, which was officially announced Thursday.
Legace's been with the organization in a coaching capacity ever since that meeting and is looking forward to the challenge of working with NHL goalies - especially Sergei Bobrovsky, who's won the Vezina Trophy twice already. He's held hockey schools and hockey camps since his playing days and also brings a wealth of playing experience to his new role - including 11 years as a NHL goalie, hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2002 with the Detroit Red Wings.
"I've been very lucky," Legace told BlueJackets.com. "I've played with Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood [in Detroit], and I've seen some of the best in the world. It was [Hasek], Patrick [Roy] and Marty Brodeur there [at the top] for a long time, right? And that's the way 'Bob' is. He's one of those elite goalies, who trains like those guys, thinks like those guys, because I know how those guys think. Coming into it, I already know the mindset that he has and how he trains. It's very impressive, and his game is very impressive."
The opportunity to work with Bobrovsky - and work again with backup Joonas Korpisalo - arose after the Blue Jackets and former goalie coach, Ian Clark, parted ways. Clark's contract ran out July 1, he signed with the Vancouver Canucks and Legace is now tasked with helping Bobrovsky improve further.
"He was great [in Cleveland]," said Bill Zito, Blue Jackets' assistant GM and the GM of the Monsters. "He's helped develop young goalies, he helped us create a winning culture and he's won a Cup himself, as a Red Wing. He's got a great combination of professional know-how, technical know-how and a positive, fun attitude toward the game."
Legace certainly has a unique perspective, after playing in the NHL, AHL, Russia, Germany and internationally for Canada.
"I was very lucky in my career," he said. "I've played in every situation, so any situation these guys go through, I've been through it. There's nothing that would shock me in any situation."
He was also trained during his NHL career by some of the game's best goalie coaches. He credits Jim Bedard, while in Detroit, for strengthening his mental approach and said Rick Wamsley taught him a lot of technical aspects with the St. Louis Blues.
"[Bedard] was a huge impact on the way I look at coaching, the way he treated his goalies and how he mentally prepared his goalies," Legace said. "You'd have a bad game and come and talk to him, and after you're done with everything, you're like, "Did I just … I think I [stunk] last game and he's telling me I'm the best thing he's ever seen, like I'd won six in a row."
As important as Bedard was mentally, Wamsley was equally valuable technically.
"With him, it was a lot of, 'Why do this in this situation, what foot should you be getting up on, what edge should we stop on, where we can take a little ice, where can we cut spaces, where can we do this, where can we do that?'" Legace said. "He was probably the most technical guy I had."
His goal, as a coach, is to combine both approaches.
Bobrovsky has already shown a mastery of the technical side, but his performance in the playoffs hasn't lived up to what he's accomplished in the regular season.
"What's the best thing a goalie can have?" Legace said. "It's a short memory, right? You don't need to talk about the past playoffs. It's 'What can we do next year, you know? If we win a Cup [in Columbus], he goes to the Hall of Fame. The past goes away and he goes to the Hall of Fame. He's putting up Hall of Fame numbers every year and it's very impressive watching this man do what he does on a year-to-year basis."
Legace will continue to watch Bobrovsky play, but from a different vantage point. He's now one of the Jackets' NHL assistants and is eager to get started. It should be a smooth transition, too, since Legace is familiar with most in the Blue Jackets' front office and coaching staff.
He was the goaltending coach in Springfield when Jackets assistant Brad Larsen was the Falcons' head coach. He was a goalie with the St. Louis Blues when Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and assistant coach Brad Shaw were all in St. Louis. He spent a brief stint with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) when assistant Kenny McCudden was the skills coach there.
He spent the past three seasons working for Zito in Cleveland and even buys insurance from Basil McRae, the Jackets' director of player personnel. The only coach he doesn't know from a previous career stop is head coach John Tortorella, but they've talked recently and Legace said the two have a like-minded approach.
"He's such a good person," Legace said. "He sees it right and wrong, you know? If you're on the right and do your job, you'll be on his happy side. If you don't, you're not going to be on his happy side. And that's the way I grew up. The way I see it is we come from the same bottle and look at things the same. It's going to be fun."