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World Juniors tourney brings out what matters to Stefan Legein

2010-12-31T00:17:00Z 2010-12-31T02:07:36Z World Juniors tourney brings out what matters to Stefan LegeinBy Tim McManus -- Commentary Glens Falls Post-Star
December 31, 2010 12:17 am  • 

GLENS FALLS -- There are a few things you shouldn't do with a separated shoulder.

Diving in the middle of a dogpile with a mess of hockey of players wildly celebrating probably ranks high on the list. Stefan Legein couldn't help himself.

This was 2008 in the Czech Republic. Canada had just scored in overtime to beat Sweden and win the World Junior Championships.

Ten seconds into the game, Legein took a hit and injured his shoulder. He put his skates back on at the start of the third period. No way he was missing out on celebrating with his country mates.

"I'll never forget sitting in the dressing room before the final game... and all you could hear was ‘Go Canada, go!' Legein said. "It was unbelievable."

Three years later, in a much different place in his career and life, the tournament still means a great deal to Legein.

Nursing another injury to the same shoulder and unable to travel with Adirondack, Legein spent his Tuesday night watching this year's tournament from his couch.

Through his Twitter account, Legein delivered an impassioned speech about what the tournament should mean, 140 characters at a time.

Here are a few of his 15 missives that rattled through the echo chamber of the Twitterverse, strung together for coherence:

-- all people care about is draft status and making it to be a higher prospcet (sic)...win it for your selfs (sic) canadian boys, not for the nhl team who signed you, or the team who may draft you, win it for yourselves, your own pride..be a winner for yourself...forget what comes after it

-- for the record i was proud. but only for me and my teammates, not for the 30 nhl teams out there. just for us as a group of boys who love it. all those guys played for our country...as friends i know they did...i just want people to play in this tournament for the right reasons.

-- its (sic) about putting on the jersey and winning it for the millions of people in our country who wish they could...i won it for my friends at home who never got the chance...who were living it through me...i just want them to play for that stuff, not the fake stuff that fades.

Though some on Twitter reacted initially as if he was calling out the Canadian team, and one can certainly read an element of that into it, Legein's point was broader. Tournaments like this and the Olympics shouldn't exist to boost players' stock in the pro game or for the television fame it provides in countries like Canada, where it's treated as a major sporting event.

"There's a huge difference," Legein said. "Your pro team can change. You can be traded as many times in a year as they want to trade you. But you're always going to be Canadian or American or Swedish. It's such a great honor to put on your sweater for your respective country and try and win gold."

More than a hint of nostalgia colored Legein's Twitter outburst. Midway through, he changed his profile picture to one of him waving a Maple Leaf flag and wearing his medal.

The snap shot captures a time when Legein, who scored a goal in the tournament's quarterfinals, was among the game's top prospects. He scored 67 goals in his last 94 games in juniors, was the 37th overall pick in the draft, and was the media darling of the tournament with his brash, charming personality; the merry prankster of the Canadian dressing room.

"Obviously, I miss it. It was a great time in my career," Legein said. "My career has taken a backward step since the tournament. So I was just kind of reminiscing on the good times."

Whether he was pretending to be Gino Reda interviewing John Tavares on TSN - a video that's been viewed nearly 30,000 times on YouTube - or kissing a reporter on live TV after getting a whipped cream pie to the face, he looked like a guy in love with the game.

There seemed no reason why the NHL couldn't be in his near future, much the way it would be for several of his Canadian teammates, like Tavares, Claude Giroux or Steven Stamkos.

Amid all the future NHL stars on that team, one glowing TSN report called Legein "the straw that stirs the drink for team Canada." The Legein of the time exuded confidence, looking every bit the heir to classic agitators like Jeremy Roenick or Matthew Barnaby.

Instead, Legein briefly retired several months later at the age of 19 after just two professional games with the Syracuse Crunch.

Though he's in the middle of a miserable season that began with two goals in his first 19 games and has extended through missing the last 14 games due to his shoulder, a gleam of the old Legein has flickered to light lately.

His Twitter account (@StefanLegein) has become a must-follow, particularly for his banter with teammate Danny Syvret, like this classic before Syvret's first game with the Phantoms:

i hope you were worth trading lali and maroon for, i guess we will find in 2 short hours.

He's sort of like the Paul Bissonnette-lite of the AHL, chirping everyone from his girlfriend - playfully, we assume - to Sean Avery.

"When I retired I came back and I was a little bit shy because obviously I wasn't in the same position I was," Legein said.

"Last year I came back and had a good year, so I'm kind of starting to get more comfortable and trying to find the way I was before and be the best player I can be. You look at certain guys like Avery and Jeremy Roenick. They were really effective on the ice just because of their personality, and it really shone through in their games. That's the kind of thing I want to get back to."

Tim McManus covers the Adirondack Phantoms. He may be reached at tmcmanus@poststar.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@PSPhantoms) or read his Phantoms Forum blog on www.poststar.com.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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