By Chris Umpierre
ESTERO, Fla. – As he exited Germain Arena on Saturday, Las Vegas Wranglers goalie Marc Magliarditi was stopped by a few Florida Everblades’ season-ticket holders. The fans offered to take him out to dinner.
The Blades have a poll on their Web site asking fans which former Florida player they would most like to see play at Germain. Magliarditi leads with 42 percent of the vote.
Blades fans have clearly not forgotten Magliarditi.
How could they forget?
The 28-year-old was Florida’s No. 1 goalie for its inaugural 1998-99 season. “Mags” played three seasons with Florida and still holds six Blades’ career goaltending records, including wins (81) and goals-against average (2.39). Magliarditi will likely start when Las Vegas plays Florida at 7:30 on Tuesday at Germain.
“It’s always nice to see some old friends, fans that you haven’t seen in three years,” said Magliarditi, who has a 1.83 goals-against average, sixth best in the ECHL.
“Florida has always been one of the best places around the league for me to visit. When I saw the game on the schedule, I was glad I was coming back.”
Led by Magliarditi, the Blades stunned many skeptics by finishing their inaugural season 45-20-5. The team was second in the then-Southeast Division. Magliarditi was 32-10-3, with a 2.27 goals-against average.
“We pretty much had no expectations and we finished second,” Magliarditi said. “That was the year that got a lot of fans excited around here. That was the year that started one of the top organizations in the league.”
In 1999-2000, Magliarditi and then-Blades goalie Jeff Maund spearheaded Florida to the then-best record (53-15-2) in ECHL history.
Magliarditi, however, wasn’t re-signed after the 2000-01 season because the Carolina Hurricanes, the Blades’ NHL affiliate, wanted to see two young goalies play in Estero.
“He’s a great kid,” Florida president/general manager Craig Brush said. “He did a good job for us but it was a situation where we had some younger guys that we wanted to see develop.”
Magliarditi signed with the Wranglers in 2003 largely because he has more than 20 relatives who live in Las Vegas. He was one of the ECHL’s best goalies last season, posting a 29-14-2 record and a 2.35 goals-against average.
“The last two seasons have probably been the two best years I’ve had in hockey,” said Magliarditi, an eight-year professional. “You don’t get a chance to be around your family a lot in this league. My wife can take care of the kids and that makes it that much easier to play hockey and enjoy it.”
Playing for Louisiana, Magliarditi competed against the Blades in Estero in the 2001-02 season. Magliarditi, who didn’t play when Las Vegas faced Florida on Saturday, admitted he’ll have more emotions Tuesday.
“There are few places I would come back to and play for, and Florida is one of them,” he said. “I would consider playing for them down the road if Vegas wasn’t an option.”