Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007 | 7:05 a.m.
Marc Magliarditi feared that he wouldn't be able to pick up his infant son or 4-year-old daughter. The original goalkeeper of the Wranglers franchise worried about reading a trembling newspaper, because of a shaky right hand, "like some of my elderly uncles do," he says.
His right forearm became fatigued, and the middle and index fingers on his right hand went numb. In 2005 he felt the first twinges of carpal tunnel syndrome. Years of handling the big hockey stick had taken their toll.
He was 28.
"Hey," he remembers thinking, "what's going on?"
Magliarditi, now 30, is grateful. Grateful that he can read a paper without feeling like he's in an earthquake. Grateful that he can lift his kids.
Grateful that he and Wranglers coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan devised a mutually beneficial plan that allows him to leave the game on his own terms.
"Mags," as he's known to everyone in the organization, is a mentor to youngsters Mike McKenna and Kevin Nastiuk. When necessary, he'll don the pads and get between the pipes during practice and in an occasional game.
On Dec. 17, in relief, he played for the first time in almost two months. He remained busy working on his residential real-estate business, spending quality time with his family and relatives in the area and working out, staying alert and fresh on the ice.
He earned his second victory of the season Dec. 29.
What: Long Beach Ice Dogs at Las Vegas Wranglers
When: 7:05 p.m. Friday
Where: Orleans Arena
Tickets: $16-$35; www.lasvegaswranglers.com
"I think there are some fans out there who are questioning what's going on and wondering if it's 'them' getting rid of me or how this is shaking down," Magliarditi said. "I guess the message is: I'm a part of this team. The role I chose to take was my own doing.
"I think it's a good situation for myself and a great situation for the team."
He first played the game as a 2-year-old in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and he became a goalie because he admired older brother Nick wearing all that cool equipment.
On the bus after a preseason game, his right hand throbbed as if it had a heartbeat of its own. Gulutzan monitors his veteran goalie daily.
"It's chronic pain, so we see how long it's aggravated," Gulutzan says. "We're playing that by ear. He has other things going on, so he's a busy guy. To juggle all that, it's hard ... the love of the game."
Magliarditi is insurance against injury to either McKenna or Nastiuk, when both are in Las Vegas. He becomes the backup when one of the younger goalies is called up by an American Hockey League team - as has happened several times already this season.
"With plenty of rest," Magliarditi said, "I can get out there and perform almost to 100 percent."
Receiving no summer National Hockey League feelers after stellar seasons in Florida (in 1998-99) and Louisiana (in 2001-02) convinced Magliarditi, a sixth-round draft selection by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1995, that he might not be destined for the game's elite level.
"When you start seeing that light at the end of the tunnel closing," he says, "it crosses your mind that, OK, how long will I do this?"
In two summer stints, he dealt blackjack at the Orleans. He says the smoke bothered him more than the dealing affected his wrists. Eventually, he settled into real estate as an alternative career.
He's satisfied to be downshifting out of the game on his own terms. His love of the game is high.
"I wouldn't even be around, in any capacity, if it wasn't," Magliarditi said. "That's the main reason I'm around."
A 10-year career consisting of 481 regular-season and playoff games will be celebrated Friday, when 2,500 figurines in his likeness will be doled out to fans. Magliarditi saw one for the first time last Friday.
He likes the detail in the uniform and how closely the helmet resembles his Las Vegas-themed mask, although he's curious why the puck in his left-handed glove is white.
He isn't unhappy that the facial features are so tiny, because he worried how his mug would have been depicted in a bobblehead model. Overall, he approved of the figurine and of the timing of the promotion, in his farewell season.
Just then, Magliarditi becomes concerned that his jacket and other personal items will be locked in the dressing room. It's late. An equipment assistant, however, assures him that the doors will remain unlocked.
The Wranglers team bus left for Phoenix a while ago.
"McKenna's on his way back from Omaha, and he'll meet the team in Phoenix," Magliarditi says. "That saved me from getting on that bus, which I have no complaints about."