During a season that brought an unexpected return to the minors, Manny Legace found peace in a place that helped him jump-start his career.
Back in the 1999-2000 International Hockey League season, Legace shared the Manitoba Moose crease with fellow Detroit Red Wings prospect Jason Elliott.
Legace finished with a record of 17-19-5 with a 2.59 goals against average in 42 appearances that year, but the Moose were swept in the first round of the best-of-3 playoffs by the Long Beach Ice Dogs.
"It's really nice to be back here," Legace said Friday after losing 4-0 to the Moose. "You know, people treated me great when I was here. It's unfortunate that I didn't play up to my ability when I was here and we didn't do much. But I loved it, except for the cold and the wind.
"But besides that, this is a great hockey town."
Legace, who is back in Winnipeg as a member of the Peoria Rivermen, parlayed his one season in antlers into a successful NHL career that has included ample time as a starter -- and even a spot on the Western Conference all-star team in 2007-08.
"The Red Wings showed a lot of faith in me to have me play there after I left here," Legace explained. "It was my seventh year in the minors so it was kind of a down year for me being here.
"But I had a good training camp in Detroit the next year and they gave me a good opportunity to play and I was very lucky. I owe a lot to the people there for my career in the NHL."
'A REAL SHOCK'
Now in his 14th season, Legace finds himself at a crossroads, since the St. Louis Blues waived him last month and sent him down to the minors.
"I was very shocked," said Legace, who boasts a record of 177-101-21-8 in 337 NHL games. "I didn't see it coming. I wasn't playing like I did last year but I wasn't playing that bad, not as bad to be sent down -- especially with a 13-9 record on a team that was dead last. It was a real shock ... But I've got to come down here and play. I'm playing for the guys who are with me in this dressing room now and that's what I look forward to doing."
Whether Legace is in the Rivermen dressing room after Wednesday's NHL trade deadline is anyone's guess.
What can't be disputed is the way Legace has handled himself since joining the Rivermen.
"You can deal with it one of two ways -- be a professional and work hard and get yourself back in the NHL or you can sit and stew about it and go nowhere," said Rivermen head coach Davis Payne.
"Manny has taken the high road. He's come down with a great attitude, worked hard, played well, been a good teammate. I've got nothing but positive things to say from his time down here."