(Jäähyväiset is Finnish for farewell. Kipper is Kipper for Kiprusoff. If you’re on Google Chrome, there’s a good chance it’s asking you if you want to translate this page into English, and that is awesome)
Miikka Kiprusoff is no longer with us. Oh, hey, yeah, no, he’s alive and well (and VERY WELL, flush with the kind of vibrance and joie de vie you can only attain upon making millions of dollars, or so I’m told). He’s just not HERE anymore. Well he’s still in Calgary. But he’s not on the Flames anymore.
We knew this day was coming. Mostly because he basically told us that earlier this summer when he was like "I’m retiring. Spread the word."
The Flames, rightfully so, will honour Kiprusoff at some point in this coming season, as his number and legacy will be sent to the Saddledome rafters as part of the agregious Forever a Flame program that I can’t believe is still a thing, and there will be a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the half honour.
Miikka Kiprusoff hates pomp and circumstance. Admit it, if there was an induction ceremony on opening night, filled with video tributes, gifts, appearances from Flames alumni, speeches, and Miikka Kiprusoff’s family, and Kipper decided to up and skip it, you would not be surprised.
Which is why today we’re going to pay tribute to the man who legitimized the crease in Calgary for so many years, mostly because we don’t actually need him to be here for it to happen. Kipper, this one’s for you.
Who Is This Guy?
It’s very possible none of us remember that fateful day in 2003. It was not, we assumed, a landmark day in Calgary Flames history. Seeking a little bit of depth at the goaltending position to combat nagging injuries to Flames incumbents Roman Turek and Jamie McLennan (Dany Sabourin fits in here somewhere too, if you were looking for any kind of clue as to how desperate Calgary was for goaltending), Darryl Sutter offered up a 2nd round pick (which at the time seemed like a steep cost for what was really only to be a stopgap measure until Turek was healthy. Roman Turek.) to acquire the San Jose Sharks SOMEHOW BELOW VESA TOSKALA ON THE DEPTH CHART third string goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
Yawn, right? NO. UNYAWN.
Miikka Kiprusoff, whoever the hell he was, sat and watched Noodles win a tight overtime affair over the hilarious Maple Leafs before making his debut on the 18th of November, brilliantly, almost single handedly, guiding the Flames to a victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Indeed, Kiprusoff, who almost immediately endeared himself to the fans as Kipper, went on to win his first 7 games with the club, at which point we were all basically in love forever. There is no doubt about that at all. By the time he finally ditched the plain white mask and acquired that super badass gold skull mask, the keys to the city were essentially his.
In 38 games with the Flames that season, Kip went 24-10-4 with a .933 sv% (!!), 4 shutouts, and all of our hearts. But that was just the beginning. Soon, he would have our shirts.
Kiprusoff cemented his eternal hero status in Cowtown after an asolutely bonkers playoff run in 2004 (I’m not going to go into details here, you all know what happened in 2004. I’m sure many of you will reminisce in the comments section. I’ll join you)
As insane as that playoff run was, and as much as it made Kiprusoff THE Flames goalie (sorry, Andrei Trefilov), it was probably the 2005-06 season in which he played his best hockey. Playing 74 games (!), Kipper went 42-20-11 (!!) with 10 shutouts (!!!) and a .923 sv% when the league average was .901 (!explosion!) With Jarome Iginla having a subpar season and the team boasting secondary scoring from the likes of Chuck Kobasew and the withered shell of Tony Amonte, Kiprusoff nonetheless managed to lead the Flames to a 103 point season and a Northwest Division title. Oh, you better believe he won the Vezina. He should have won everything. He WAS everything.
Kipper would spend the next 800 seasons minding the crease for the Flames and playing at least 70 games in all of them except for last year’s lockout and injury and age and terrible goaltending shortened season. He had his ups and downs over the years, but man, when he was on, he was the best in the world.
Hell, as far as I’m concerned, he still is. Anyone who can block a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs WITHOUT a No Movement Clause in their contract, well, objectively that is brilliant.
I don’t care if Marc-Edouard Vlasic ends up being the greatest defenseman in San jose Sharks history, if he had been drafted in Calgary, he would have ended up being Matt Pelech. Trading the second rounder for Kipper straight up will forever be one of Darryl Sutter’s most shrewd moves, and it was probably pure luck, but he’ll never tell.
Kiprusoff would become many things in Calgary. A goaltender who could take your breath away:
(I was at this game. I’m pretty sure I probably peed a little when this all went down)
A man of words:
A Bruising Enforcer:
A guy who just LOVED to be in the spotlight:
Someone who prompts imitation:
And a man who has even been accused of being a predatory arthropod:
A lack of a training regimen, heavy smoking, and a funny accent, these were the tools that helped his legend grow. Kipper’s the kind of guy that you know if he spoke flunet English, would be the sharpest guy you know. His humble attitude, his unwillingness to be the guy in the limelight, and oh yeah, an uncanny ability to stop pucks are the traits that the next all world, all Calgary goaltending icon this city needs is going to have to possess, and, uh, good luck with that, PROBABLY JON GILLIES.
So I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, or what you’re doing right now. If you’re reading this, you need to drop everything and salute the best and most un-Trevor Kiddiest goaltender in Flames history (he’s so good, Curtis Joseph was his backup!) He’s stopped every player you’ve ever hated. Even Norm Ullman. Somehow. And that’s worth celebrating. I know that’s all I’m doing for the rest of the week. Join me, why don’t you? Hell, if there’s enough beer and cigarettes, Kipper himself will probably join us.