Peter Mannino first picked up a hockey stick around the age of four, but it wasn’t until a couple years later that he became a netminder. He was intrigued by all of the gear that the goalies wore versus that of the other players. “They really stood out from the rest of the team. I started watching goalies like Felix Potvin; his mask and pads were so cool. I wanted to look like that.”
The opportunities began when Mannino received a call from the Pittsburgh Forge, a now defunct North American Hockey League team. It was with the Forge that Mannino’s skills were spotted by the University of Denver, where he soon went to play.
His big break came during 2004, the year of the infamous hockey blackout. In America, hardcore hockey fans’ primary entertainment came from college games. Peter was having a great freshman year, and it ended in the best possible way: the University of Denver won the “Frozen Four,” and Mannino was named the MOP (Most Outstanding Player).
In 2008 Peter Mannino graduated from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a Frozen Four title under his belt, all while his agent was receiving calls from NHL teams. Mannino signed a one-year contract with the New York Islanders. “It was an awesome feeling; I finally signed an NHL contract which has been a lifelong dream.”
The 2008-09 season for the Islanders proved to be an ideal starting place for Mannino. While he didn’t immediately make the Islanders roster, he was sent to their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. While proving himself as a strong performer, Mannino started most games in Bridgeport. Early on, the Islanders’ star goalie Rick DiPietro suffered from knee and other lower body injuries, causing his absence for the majority of the season. His chance grew close, and Mannino continued his work with the Sound Tigers.
But one day after practice he finally received a call from the Islanders: “Mannino, we need you here.”
“I was going to dress for an NHL game; this is something I’ve always dreamed about as a kid, I never knew it was going to happen.” Mannino was ecstatic.
He sat on the bench as back-up for most of the initial games. “Family members would always call up and ask ‘they put you in yet?’ I was anxious to play a game in the NHL, but I had to be patient.” Finally his opportunity came, but it didn’t pan out like he hoped.
Friday, November 28th, 2008 marked the date of Mannino’s first NHL game. It was the Islanders vs. the Bruins; David vs. Goliath. The Islanders’ primary backup, Joey MacDonald let in five goals. Early in the third period, Mannino was put in goal on relief and let in three goals during the 17:48 played. “It was my first NHL venture, but it wasn’t glamorous.”
Mannino had a tough loss, and was immediately sent back down to Bridgeport. Although he was back where he started, it didn’t change his attitude. It wasn’t long before Peter received another call. He had found out that MacDonald was put on the IRL (injured reserve list), and he was needed back in New York.
While Mannino expected to play backup, the coaches had a different plan. On March 15, 2009 he started his first NHL game against the now Stanley Cup champs, the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It was an exciting place to start,” said Mannino. “My girlfriend lived in Chicago, and my family lives only a couple hours away, so a lot of people were there to support me.”
All of the support seemed to work as Peter had a 5-2 win, and stopped 40 goals. It was his first NHL career start and win.
Mannino wasn’t signed by the Islanders for the following season, but he signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Thrashers for the 2009-10 season. He was assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. And although he didn’t play any games with the Thrashers, he was called up for three days to practice with the team. In Chicago, he finished the season winning 25 of the 31 games he played. The team ended their season losing in the second round of the playoffs.
“It was a really fun place to be, and a great organization to be a part of,” said Mannino.
The Wolves liked Mannino, and re-signed him to a two-year contract that runs through the 2011-12 season, leaving him still waiting for his opportunity to shine in the NHL. “This sort of thing doesn’t just come to you. You have to show up.”
Earlier this season, the sudden collapse of Ondrej Pavelec, Atlanta’s primary goaltender, had the Thrashers in need of another goalie. Mannino was their choice. He was only up for a handful of games, but was put in relief during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in which he stopped 15 of 16 shots.
Mannino’s future is a bright one, and one that many follow. His drive to become the best is in full motion, and with some hard work, he hopes to be back up in no time.