Every day this summer (well almost every day anyway...) Defending Big D will count down the greatest players in franchise history (both Dallas and Minnesota), based on the sweater number they wore. Keep coming back for a look at who's the best in Stars history. For a recap on the list so far, click here.
Ok, I wanted to put this out yesterday, but I also want to give the man on our next number his proper due because before the likes of Ed Belfour and Marty Turco came around, he was the goalie by which all other North Stars / Stars goalies were measured...
#30 - Cesare Maniago
It was players like Cesare who made expansion from six to twelve teams a necessity for the NHL back in 1967. He was a very talented goalie who started his pro career in 1960 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but his talent was quite enough to get into the lineup of one of the six NHL teams. In Toronto he played behind Johnny Bower. He was claimed by the Montreal Canadiens in the following summer's intra-league draft, but again was playing behind Jacques Plante. For a few years while property of the Habs, he bounced around the minor-pro circuit playing for teams in Ottawa-Hull, Quebec City and Spokane. His rights were traded to the New York Rangers in 1965 and he shared goaltending duties with Ed Giacomin for a short time, but again Maniago couldn't claim a starters spot of his own.
Then the 1967 expansion took place and the Minnesota North Stars claimed Maniago in the expansion draft. The North Stars had a true number one goalie and Cesare had his chance to shine which he did in his very first season as a starter with a 22-16-9 record, 2.77 goals against average and six shutouts (good for second in the league that year). He also led the North Stars on a great playoff run in their first season getting them to the NHL semi-final.
He played with the North Stars for another eight seasons after that - never quite matching his terrific numbers that he posted in his first season with the team, but still providing quality goaltending for Minnesota, helping lead them to playoff berths in five of their first six seasons. His backup partner for many of those seasons was yet another goaltending legend: Gump Worsley.
By the time his run with the North Stars ended in 1976 with a trade to the Vancouver Canucks, Maniago had piled up a record of 145-192-71 and a 3.17 goals against average in 420 games played. He still ranks very high on many of the Stars all-time records lists including 26 shutouts which stands third in franchise history - one behind Belfour and currently four behind Turco.
But what made him truly one of the greats in franchise history was the fact that he was not only the teams first real stand out player, but a colorful personality on and off the ice.
If you thought Belfour had attitude swings, it was nothing compared to the night of December 10th, 1974 when Cesare literally skated off the ice and to the North Stars dressing room after letting in a particularly bad goal much to the dismay of his coach Jack Gordon.
His tall, lanky stature at 6 foot 3 inches and athletic play was a precursor to the acrobatic goaltenders we see on the ice and take for granted today. He was also one of the first goalies to really show a great ability to handle a puck. In fact there are stories of how in the minors he would join the rush up ice when the opposing team was under a delayed penalty. Back in the 60's it was perfectly legal for goaltenders to skate past the red line with the puck, and Cesare was one of the few who not only did it, but actively tried to score a goal. That effort soon came to a stop however when someone managed to catch him and knock him out with a crushing hit at his opponents blue line.
Career wise, he still ranks fairly high on many of the NHL's major stat categories including games played (41st), goals against average (98th), shutouts (46th) and wins (70th).
(Author's note: Obviously for a recap of a legend like Cesare a person has to go through books and hit the internet to find out information, so very aprciative glove taps go to GreatestHockeyLegends.com and HockeyGoalies.org for the extra background info on Maniago!)