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Alumni Reunion: Manny Legace

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Manny Legace was drafted by Hartford and made his NHL debut with Los Angeles, but it was with the Red Wings that he hoisted the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Getty Images)

There were 16 goaltenders taken after Hartford picked Manny Legace in the eighth round of the 1993 NHL amateur draft, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that none of them developed into league all-stars.

What is surprising is that Legace is the only goalie – of the 36 selected that year, including Jocelyn Thibault, Kevin Weekes, Tommy Salo, Norm Maracle and Patrick Lalime – to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup.

Though he never played a game for the Whalers, Legace managed to play in more than 350 NHL games with Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis and Carolina. He played in parts of six seasons for the Red Wings and enjoyed a career year when he posted a 37-8-0 record in the season coming out of the NHL lockout. But his most memorable time in Detroit came as a backup to Dominik Hasek during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2002.

Though it’s been a few years since he last played in an NHL game, Legace has continued his craft spending a season in Germany and American Hockey League stints in Peoria, Chicago, San Antonio and Springfield.

Legace, who still maintains a residence in metro Detroit, sat down with to reminisce about his playing days with the Red Wings:

QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?

LEGACE: “I work out in the summer with Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom before they head back home to Sweden.”

Q. Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?

LEGACE: “Probably Nick, because he’s so laid-back. You call him and he can be there in five minutes. … As big of a hockey player and hall-of-famer that he is, he’s just a down-to-earth guy.”

Q. What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?

LEGACE: “Winning the Stanley Cup in 2002.”

Q. Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?

LEGACE: “No question, Darren (McCarty). He just grinded it out every night. He wouldn’t back-down from a soul, and would fight any heavyweight. But he would never fight a lightweight. … He had respect for the game. He probably was the toughest.”

Q. Who was the funniest?

LEGACE: “(Chris) Osgood and (Kirk) Maltby liked to play practical jokes. But that was just in a little click; you never saw them picking on the big guys.”

Q. Who had the biggest heart?

LEGACE: “Probably (Kris) Draper or Malts. They just gave 100 percent every night and would stick their heads in front of slap shots. That’s why they were the Grind Line; there was a reason for it.”

Q. What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?

LEGACE: “I like the China Café in Novi. But when we do come downtown it’s usually to the Detroit Brew Company, because my buddy is the manager there. … The Roma Café is another one.”

Q. How has the NHL changed since you played?

LEGACE: “The game has gotten faster. They’ve changed the rules where you can’t clutch and grab. You can’t slow teams down, and that’s thanks to New Jersey and the way they used to play by clogging up the neutral zone. You couldn’t even get a shot on Marty (Brodeur). When they changed the rules to knock down the stick-work and the holding, the game just exploded with speed.”

Q. Toughest team (other than the Red Wings) when you played?

LEGACE: “Seems like whenever we went on the west coast it was tough. Like San Jose, I always played well against them in Detroit, but I’d go there, I’d just didn’t do well against them. I don’t know, maybe it was the building.”

Q. Who did you sit next to in the dressing room?

LEGACE: “I sat next to Ozzie until he went to New York, and came back, and then to St. Louis and came back. … Ozzie is a good friend, and we’ve had a lot of good laughs.”

Q. What do you love most about the game?

LEGACE: "Just competing, the whole preparation of it. The harder you work at it, the more you get out of it. If you take the game lightly, and believe that you have it conquered, it will come up and bite you. If you dedicate yourself and work hard, the more you’ll get out of it.”

Q. Who had the greatest influence on your career?

LEGACE: “Probably my parents, who have always been there. Night and day, game in and game out, I knew that they would be there.”

Q. What advice would you give to kids playing today?

LEGACE: “Just work hard. Whatever you put in, you’re going to get out.”

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