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Williamsville's Leggio cashes in chance for Olympic glory

Normally, qualifying for the Olympics is no walk in the park. It was for David Leggio.

With his wife at the grocery store, the Williamsville native decided to take a stroll with his son and dog. While they were at a park near their home in Germany, officials from USA Hockey called. They told Leggio he'll represent his country at the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea.

"It was definitely a nice moment, to say the least," Leggio said Thursday. "You dream of playing in the Olympics."

It became reality when the United States finalized its 25-man roster by naming Leggio and fellow goaltender Brandon Maxwell on Thursday. Leggio has represented Team USA on four prior occasions, but this will be the most significant experience by far.

The opportunity arose in April after the NHL announced it would not send its players to the Games. Competing countries examined other options, and Leggio stood out for the United States. The 33-year-old has excelled wherever he's played, including his current home in the German elite league.

"When you're growing up as a kid, you dream it just like the NHL," Leggio said by phone from Munich. "Honestly, I got to a point in my career where the NHL seemed like a pretty realistic dream. The Olympics? I didn't know how realistic that would be.

"Once they announced last year they weren't going to bring NHL players, me and a couple guys on my team started joking around about it. Then I started looking around Europe and thought, 'Maybe I have a chance actually.' "

He cashed in his chance with another strong season for Red Bull Munich. He also played for the United States in November in an Olympic tuneup called the Deutschland Cup.

"Right from the summer when I knew I had a chance, it was a real big driving point for me every day," Leggio said. "I was training for Red Bull Munich, and I'm also training for that opportunity. Just every day I was keeping that in my sights."

Pulling on the USA sweater is meaningful for the former Buffalo Sabres prospect. He represented the United States at the world championships in 2010 and 2014, and he also played in the 2009 Deutschland Cup.

"We've got a guy that, No. 1, has been a great teammate everywhere he's been, but also a very steady, consistent performer," Team USA General Manager Jim Johannson said on a conference call. "He's a guy that has accepted whatever the role has been, but anytime he's gotten an opportunity to play he's kept his teams in games."

Leggio, who attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, played for the Sabres' minor-league teams from 2010 to 2013. He moved on to Germany in 2015 and has won two championships.

Amerks’ Leggio plays in hometown rink

Leggio will head to PyeongChang next month. He'll be joined by his wife, Kristen, their 1½-year-old son, Leo, and his in-laws. Leggio hopes others can join the group, but managing the hotel and travel logistics won't be easy on short notice.

"Whoever can't make it I'm sure will be rooting from afar," he said. "I'm looking at it more as a business trip. I'll focus on hockey, and that's about it."

Bringing home a gold medal is the top priority.

"We do have tremendous talent and some really good guys, so I think we have as good a chance as any, to be honest," Leggio said. "Just talking on group chats and talking with guys at the Deutschland Cup, guys are pretty optimistic. Everyone is ready to go. Everyone is ready to compete for that gold medal."

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