For nearly a decade, Miikka Kiprusoff defined the Calgary Flames in net (and dominated)

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
4 months ago
It was mid-November 2003, and the Calgary Flames had a big problem.
The club began their season with stability in goal, with a veteran tandem of starter Roman Turek and backup Jamie McLennan. Behind them, though, they had a pair of untested prospects in the minors: Dany Sabourin with their shared American Hockey League affiliate in Lowell, Mass., and Brent Krahn in the ECHL with the Las Vegas Wranglers. As long as they didn’t hit injury trouble, they would be fine.
They hit injury trouble and they were not fine.
Early in the second period of their second game of the season, Roman Turek was conked in the head by Alyn McCauley’s knee as the Sharks forward scored a goal. A week later, Turek returned to action, only to tear a knee ligament 1:33 into the game on a goal scored by Sabres forward Ales Kotalik. Turek finished the game, but he was out until January.
McLennan became the de facto starter, while Sabourin was summoned from the AHL to back him up. Sabourin played four times in late October and early November, had a couple rough evenings, and wasn’t able to pick up any victories. His lack of success led the Flames to rely on McLennan heavily, and didn’t seem like a recipe for success.
Meanwhile, in San Jose, the Sharks were carrying three goaltenders. Their main tandem was Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, while third-stringer Miikka Kiprusoff stuck around due to his waiver status. He practised with the team but never played. A trade seemed inevitable.
On Nov. 16, 2003, just shy of a month after Turek injured his knee, the Flames sent a conditional 2005 second-round pick to the Sharks in exchange for Kiprusoff. It was a Sunday.
In Monday’s Calgary Herald, columnist Bruce Dowbiggin panned the move:
“Miikka Kiprusoff for a second-round draft pick? Not THE Miikka Kiprusoff? With the 3.25 goals-against average? And a 5-14 record last year? Apparently Darryl Sutter thinks he’s a No. 1 NHL goalie. Oh…”
Of course, the hope at that point was that Kiprusoff would merely solidify the Flames’ net. Nobody could have anticipated that Kiprusoff would be so good for so long.
Kiprusoff made his debut in the Flames net on Nov. 20, 2003, making 22 saves in a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens and wearing a plain white mask. His final appearance for the Flames was on Apr. 23, 2013, making 28 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators. In-between, Kiprusoff established himself as the best and most prolific netminder in franchise history.
Kiprusoff made 572 starts and 576 appearances with the Flames, the most by any goaltender. He won 305 games and recorded 41 shutouts, both franchise records. During a seven season period – between 2005-06 and 2011-12 – he averaged 73 starts per season and played 86.8% of all regular season minutes. If you distill that entire seven season period into one 60 minute game, Kiprusoff would play 52 minutes of it.
Not only did Kiprusoff play a ton, he was flat-out excellent for much of his run.

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In a 2003-04 season shortened by not playing until the trade to Calgary and a brief knee injury, Kiprusoff set a modern-day goals against average record (1.70). Put another way: he was the first goaltender since 1939-40 to register a goals against average that low. You could be a bit skeptical of a fantastic 39-game performance, though. Could he keep it up over a full season?
In the following seven seasons, the ones where Kiprusoff averaged 73 starts per, he finished in the top 10 among regular NHL goalies in save percentage five times, goals against average three times, shutouts three times and wins six times. And while the wheels fell off in 2012-13 due to age, wear and tear, and rumoured conflicts with new head coach Bob Hartley, Kiprusoff could still be counted on to steal a game every now and then in his final season, at the age of 36.

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When Kiprusoff was in net, fans and teammates alike felt like they always had a chance to win, no matter the opponent or circumstance. When his #34 is raised to the rafters on Saturday evening – after what’s sure to be a memorable, if brief, set of remarks by the verbose Finn – it will be extremely well deserved.
Get ready for the Daily Faceoff Live Trade Deadline Show, coming to you on March 8th LIVE from 11 AM to 3 PM EST!! Join Tyler Yaremchuk, Frank Seravalli and friends for 4 hours of non-stop action as they dive deep into the heart of the trade deadline. They will be breaking down every trade, discussing the impact on teams, predicting the playoff picture, and giving you the inside scoop on all the wheeling and dealing happening around the league. Tune in live on March 8th from 11 AM to 3 PM EST for the The Daily Faceoff Live Trade Deadline special you won’t want to miss!

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