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Cesare Maniago: Covering the Canadian hockey landscape

If you mention the name Cesare Maniago to most hockey fans who were around from the 1970’s forward, chances are the team they will associate him with is the Minnesota North Stars.

That makes sense, because the tall (6'2") goalie played the better part of a decade with the North Stars, including some memorable playoff series—most notably one against the Montreal Canadiens in 1971.

He was the number one guy most of those years, though I recall that he shared time with Hall-of-Famer Gump Worsley when the latter also joined the Stars in the early ‘70s after an illustrious career with Montreal and the Rangers before that.

But one of the interesting sidebars about Maniago’s career is that he may well have been the only goalie ever to play for the 3 “original” Canadian teams—Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Toronto and Montreal were “Original 6” franchises, of course. Vancouver gained entry into the league for the 1970-’71 season.

Maniago came up in the Toronto system, playing junior for St. Mikes. He played only a few games with the big team, during the 1960-’61 season. But it was enough to get his name etched forever in the record books. Montreal great “Boom Boom” Geoffrion became only the second player ever to score 50 goals in a season in the spring of ’61, notching the record-tying marker against the Leafs with Maniago in goal at the Forum in Montreal. (We’ve included a game-action photo of Maniago in one of his appearances with the Leafs that season.)

Ironically, the big goalie and Geoffrion were teammates not long afterwards, as Maniago had moved to the Montreal minor league system after the 60-’61 season. Maniago played a few games for Toe Blake and the Habs in 1962-’63 as a short-term replacement for Jacques Plante.

Eventually Maniago found himself in the Rangers system, and earned some starts in 1965-’66. (In fact, I believe he was in net for another “milestone” marker, Bobby Hull’s record-breaking 51st goal late that season.) By the next season, he was re-united with Geoffrion who had come out of retirement, and was fighting with newcomer Eddie Giacomin for the number one job in New York. However, a minor injury sidelined Maniago early on, and Giacomin took advantage of Maniago’s absence to grab the top job, which he held onto for a decade.

Expansion gave Maniago his big chance to play on a regular basis. He established himself right away with the North Stars, and was a backbone of that squad, which at different times featured popular expansion-era names such as Bill Goldworthy, Danny Grant, J.P. Parise, ex-Bruin Tommy Williams (the first American to play regularly in the NHL earlier in his career with the Bruins), Tom Reid, Murray Oliver and Jude Drouin.

Maniago finished his distinguished career with two seasons in Vancouver, where he has remained a respected, well-regarded figure in the community.

As we know, the NHL has expanded significantly since those “early” days, making it pretty much impossible to expect any goalie will ever play for all Canadian-based clubs. Those following this site may know if any other goaltender played for the Leafs, Montreal and Vancouver over the course of their careers. If you think of anyone, let us know.

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