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Unforgettable night as Maggio faces NHL's top guns

by Dan Rosen
MONTREAL -- Jason Maggio stood in the middle of the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room looking out of place and extremely nervous.

The 5-foot-8, 150-pound 21-year-old never thought he'd ever be afforded the chance to walk on the same carpet as all his hockey idols. For this huge Habs' fan, it was always a pipe dream … until Saturday night.

Accompanied by former NHLers Kris King from NHL Hockey Operations and Patrick Flatley from the NHLPA, Maggio carried his goalie equipment into the forbidden palace that is the Habs' dressing room inside the Bell Centre.

He meandered through the crowded room and found a chair at the far end. A jersey was resting on it.

It was his chair. It was his All-Star jersey.

Maggio, a goalie in the Junior AA Lac St. Louis League in nearby Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, was tabbed by the NHL to stand between the pipes Saturday night in the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge, the featured event of the 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills Competition.

It was his job to face Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis, Alex Kovalev, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos. To most NHL goalies, that would be a daunting challenge on any night. For Maggio, it was his dream come true.

"Up until now, it's got to be the No. 1 thing I've ever done in my life," Maggio told while waiting to go into the Habs' dressing room. "Nobody else ever gets this chance to skate on the ice with all of these guys."

He's right about that. Until Saturday night, no amateur had ever participated in the NHL's SuperSkills Competition.

"It's overwhelming, just amazing," said Maggio, now standing in the Habs' dressing room with the Eastern Conference All-Stars and the sophomore YoungStars getting ready around him. "I definitely did not think I'd ever find myself here. It's just awesome."

It wasn't that Maggio won some contest to get this grand opportunity. He just knows the right people.

Maggio's former history teacher and hockey coach at Loyola High School in Montreal is Richard Meagher, the brother of Gary Meagher, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Public Relations and Media.

On a whim, Maggio decided to go visit Richard Meagher at Loyola one day, and his former teacher and coach told him the League was looking for someone just like him.

Gary Meagher didn't need to ask twice.

"We only had to go to one guy," Gary Meagher told

"Obviously I was interested," Maggio said.

Maggio wasn't sure if he was going to make any saves, but he ended up stopping a bunch of pucks by just standing in the middle of the crease. Then again, he admitted most of the time the pucks just hit him as the challengers tried all their dipsy-do moves.

"I just wanted to see how it would be in front of all those crazy fans, and it was pretty cool," Maggio said after the Challenge was over and he was back in the East's dressing room. "I kind of wanted to stay out there. It went by pretty quick."

He was most surprised by Stamkos' move when he slid on the ice and moved the puck from his right to left with his right hand. Stamkos put the puck past Maggio with his stick only in his left hand.

It was Kane's move originally, so Maggio wasn't expecting Stamkos to try it.

"Kane tried it, but Stamkos caught me off-guard," Maggio said. "I wasn't really sure what was going on."

Maggio thought St. Louis and Getzlaf had the most creative moves, but he recognized Getzlaf's from a video he made that ran on

Getzlaf brought Maggio all the way around the left post, where he got stuck. The Ducks center then went around the net, lifted the puck on his stick blade and wrapped it in to the top right corner of the goal.

"I recognized it a bit, but to pull it off is pretty impressive," Maggio said. "You can't stop that."

Maggio was most intimidated by Kovalev and Ovechkin, "just cause of who they are. I don't think it's up to me to stop any of them. If they wanted to they could have scored on any one of their moves."

In regards to Ovechkin, who won the contest with 42.8 percent of the votes in balloting by fans, Maggio said, "I mean, I have nothing on the line, but I could just imagine some of these NHL goalies seeing that guy coming down on you, it must be pretty intimidating."

Maggio, though, made sure to point out how Ovechkin beat him on his Breakaway Challenge winning goal.

"He scored on a rebound," the goalie said.

While Maggio is clearly not an NHL-caliber goalie, he's no slouch either.

His father, Teo, told that his son could have probably played low-end NCAA Division I hockey in the United States, but "it's hard to get full scholarships for Canadian kids now, so that's why he's back home," Teo Maggio said.

Maggio has also faced NHLers before. This past summer he played in a tournament called the Stanley Keg in Pierrefonds, Quebec. According to Teo, Maxim Lapierre, Jason Pominville and Alex Burrows all played as well.

"He did very well for himself," Teo said. "He held his own and actually someone said he can easily play Division 2 in Europe. So, we're trying to get his Italian citizenship and maybe we'll get a couple of tryouts."

No matter what happens from here, Maggio has an incredible story to tell.

"Yes, it was a dream come true," he said. "One hundred percent, yes."

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