Focused Legein wants to begin NHL career

Stefan Legein, who mysteriously quit playing hockey at age 19 last summer, is determined to start his NHL career with the Columbus Blue Jackets and plans to report to the team in January.

Blue Jackets prospect shocked hockey world when he retired at age 19

Perhaps Stefan Legein is motivated by the fine play of his friend and former Canadian world junior teammate Steve Mason. Maybe he's impressed by the Columbus Blue Jackets' recent performance or simply craving elite-level hockey.

Whatever the case, Legein, who turned 20 on Nov. 24, wants to return to the NHL team and begin what he hopes is a long and successful professional career.

In the summer, Legein mysteriously quit playing hockey at age 19, citing a "lack of desire" to play competitive hockey.

"Now I know fully that I want to do this for the rest of my life," Legein told Hockey Night In Canada Radio on Sirius. "I'm trying to take it in all positive ways.

"It was a tough decision, obviously, for anyone to make to decision to step back from the position I was in. But I don't regret it at all. 

"I'm going to come back full force and know I'm fully committed. I think it is only going to make me stronger as a person and as a player."

Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson told the Columbus Post-Dispatch that the team is behind Legein's comeback attempt but he feels the player will have some bridges to build with his teammates.

"If he is ready to do this and display the necessary passion, I have compassion for him and we will welcome him back," Howson said. "I have said all along — to him and about him — that if he doesn't have the desire or the passion, we're OK with that.

"This is a difficult profession. You can't go in half-interested."

Legein, who helped lead Canada to a gold medal at the 2008 world junior hockey championship in the Czech Republic, has been skating recently with the St. Catharines Falcons of the Golden Horseshoe Junior League and next week will skate with the Ontario Hockey League's Brampton Battalion.

From there, he will spend the Christmas holidays with his family in Oakville, Ont., and then rejoin the Blue Jackets.

Legein, the team's second-round pick (37th overall) in the 2007 entry draft, is currently on its suspended list.

After recovering from a shoulder injury late last season, he returned for the final five regular-season games with the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs and collected 18 points in 10 playoff contests.

Legein later played two games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League before asking if he could go home.

"It was a really long thing," Legein said. "I played in the summer in Russia, came right back to columbus, the OHL season, the world juniors, and then I got hurt and I kind of had some time away from the game.

"I think I just kind of lost my passion for it. I got steered in the wrong direction.

"It is really tough mentally and some people just can't take it. I thought for a while I couldn't take it, but it is just kind of a mental thing you have to break through and, once you break through it, everything will be all right."

Legein will return to a Columbus outfit that sits ninth in the Western Conference with an 11-10-3 record, thanks in large part to the play of Mason in net.

Mason, who also hails from Oakville, posted a 5-2-1 record in November and was named top rookie for that month on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old earned victories in his first three starts and fashioned a 2.09 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and two shutouts in eight appearances prior to Tuesday's 3-2 home win over Vancouver.

"We grew up playing together," Legein said. "It is so good to see young guys, especially young guys that you know, come into the league and doing so well."

Mason spent the start of the season recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery in the off-season.

He was recalled from Syracuse on Nov. 4 as an injury replacement for starting netminder Pascal Leclaire.