With Johnny Bower playing goal in Toronto, Maniago found it was difficult to get much playing time at Maple Leaf Gardens and got into just seven games in 1960-61, his first year in the NHL.
That season, Maniago also played minor pro in Vancouver, Sudbury, and Spokane. In June 1961, he was claimed by Montreal but again found it difficult to unseat Jacques Plante. He played just 14 games for the Habs. That season, he also packed his pads and played in Hull, Quebec, and Spokane.
Maniago didn't resurface in the NHL until 1965-66, and then, with the New York Rangers. But with expansion, many players received a new lease on their playing lives, and Cesare Maniago was no different. Chosen by the Minnesota North Stars, he played nine seasons there.
In August 1976, the Stars and Canucks swapped netminders--Maniago going to Vancouver and Garry Smith packaged to Minnesota. With two seasons playing in B.C., Maniago was close to home. He retired from playing in 1978. During the latter part of the 1980s, Cesare Maniago was also the goaltending coach for the Canucks.
Known as "Hail Cesare," Cesare Maniago had a name that sounded great, although it took him some time to truly make a name for himself in the NHL.
He first arrived in the big leagues via the Western Hockey League's Spokane Comets in 1960-61. He picked up seven games and a 2.57 goals-against average as a backup to future Hall of Famer Johnny Bower, the 1961 Vezina Trophy winner. Exit Maniago to the minors.
The following year, he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens who had future Hall of Famer Jacques Plante, the 1962 Vezina Trophy holder. Exit Maniago to the minors-- again.
From his 14-game stint in Montreal, Maniago drifted in the minors with seven different clubs from 1963-65. It was at that time that the New York Rangers secured his rights and brought him to Broadway to serve as a backup to future Hall of Famer Eddie Giacomin. At least this time Maniago picked up 34 games before being claimed by the Minnesota North Stars in the Expansion Draft of 1967.
In Minnesota, Maniago finally became a frontline goaltender. Standing an exceptionally tall 6' 3", his game was distinguished by acrobatic moves, quick reflexes, and an emphasis on playing the angles.
He became a goal-crease fixture with the North Stars for the nine seasons that followed the draft. On three occasions, he cracked the 20-wins plateau.
In 1976, Maniago was traded to Vancouver where he played out his final two seasons of pro hockey before retiring.