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Top 100 Goalies: No. 86 — Cesare Maniago

Expansion opened its doors, and he charged through as one of the first stars in NHL’s new wave.

Cesare Maniago was a big beneficiary of NHL expansion from six to 12 teams in 1967. Before that monumental shift, he toiled in various minor leagues for seven seasons with brief NHL action, most notably as a New York Ranger.

That all changed when Maniago, at 28, became the starting goalie for the Minnesota North Stars their first nineseasons in the league. “Expansion was big for me because in New York, we had Ed Giacomin as well as myself,” said Maniago, now 79. “The NHL had just brought in the two-goalie system the year before, so if expansion didn’t happen I would have been likely splitting time with Eddie. When I was drafted by an expansion team, I knew that I would be getting more playing time. That was a happy moment for myself. I knew a lot of guys on the team, so it gave me a new set of confidence that helped me be successful in Minnesota.”

Standing tall for his era at 6-foot-3, Maniago was one of the first goalies of his size to make an impact. “I used to get heck saying I was too tall to be a goalie since the rest of the netminders were 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-11,” he said. “I was a standup goalie of course, but my style was to drag a right leg, similar to what they do now with the butterfly except they drag both legs. If a guy was going to deke me, I’d try and throw my right leg out if he was coming on that side. It was really effective at the time.”

By Maniago’s third season in Minnesota, the North Stars brought in 39-year-old Gump Worsley to share the workload, and it couldn’t have turned out better. “Me and Gump were roommates and became good friends,” Maniago said. “They called us the Mutt and Jeff of goaltending, but we considered ourselves partners and wanted nothing but the best for each other. If he was playing and winning, he was putting money in my pocket by making the playoffs, and if I was playing and winning, I was putting money in his pocket.”

On one particular night, Maniago got into a fight with Boston netminder Eddie Johnston. Well, sort of. “Eddie and I dropped the gloves at center ice, but it was all planned,” Maniago said. “We pretended to be yelling at each other and faking punches when really, we were asking about each other’s family. It was just something to stir things up and get the crowd going. Whenever I see Eddie now, I’ll look at him and he’ll look at me, and we start laughing at that fake fight.”

Maniago says his biggest disappointment in hockey was never winning a Stanley Cup, but that onus isn’t on him as he primarily played for weaker teams in Minnesota and Vancouver. He ranks third all-time among Minnesota/Dallas goalies in games and shutouts.

Maniago retired in 1978 but stayed in sports, first in the wholesale sporting business and later as the Canucks’ goalie coach, mentoring Richard Brodeur and Kirk McLean.

Born: Jan. 13, 1939, Trail, B.C.
NHL Career: 1960-78
Teams: Tor, Mtl, NYR, Min, Van
Stats: 190-257-97, 3.27 GAA, .901 SP, 30 SO


Legendary goaltender Jacques Plante helped get Maniago his first mask during his time with Montreal in the early 1960s. The pair went to Montreal General Hospital where they each took a mold and produced a mask. Maniago’s was a pretzel-style shape, but Canadiens coach Toe Blake banned Maniago from wearing it in a game.



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