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Jean-Sebastien Giguere Announces Retirement

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

After 16 NHL seasons, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup championship, former Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere is calling it a career.

Giguere, 37, announced Thursday he is retiring from the NHL, ending a career that saw him win 262 games in 597 regular-season contests. He made the announcement in Quebec with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada hockey team, where he is a part owner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise.

The Montreal native spent most of the last three seasons in a backup role for the Avalanche and helped in the development of goalie Semyon Varlamov.

When Varlamov needed a night off, Giguere proved he was still a capable NHL netminder and could give the Avalanche a chance to win every game. He appeared in 72 games with Colorado and had a 31-21-8 record, four shutouts, a 2.51 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

"That's the job of a backup. You have to be ready for all kinds of scenarios," Giguere said in October to "Sometimes a goalie might get sick, sometimes he might get hurt in warm-up. Sometimes he might be out for a month, and the team isn't necessarily going to get a trade. You have to be ready physically and mentally for those kinds of challenges."

It was a healthy competition in net between Giguere and Varlamov, with each goalie pushing the other to be better while also forming a friendship. The goalie tandem excelled together at the start of last season and shared the NHL's Second Star of the week honors for the week ending Oct. 13.

With Giguere continuing to share his previous experiences with Varlamov, the team added additional support last summer in hall-of-fame goalie Patrick Roy as head coach and Francois Allaire as the team's goaltending coach. The trio helped Varlamov breakout in 2013-14 as the Russian goalie won 41 games and was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Allaire was Giguere's former goalie coach in Anaheim, and the veteran netminder was able to help ease Varlamov into and learn Allaire's system. The trio even worked out a bit together last summer in Montreal.

"When Francois came here, I told Varly it would be very good for him," Giguere said to during the season. "It would be something that would bring him to the next level as long as he was willing to work. I told him, 'You're going to get better with him coaching you.'"

Giguere also seemed to benefit with Allaire back in the mix as he won his first seven decisions this past season to become the first goaltender in Avalanche/Nordiques history to start a season 7-0. It was also a career-high win streak for the goalie, who only allowed five goals in his first five starts of the year.

Part of Giguere's 7-0 streak were two shutouts against two of the Eastern Conference's best teams. He stopped 39 shots at Boston on Oct. 10 and 34 shots at Pittsburgh on Oct. 21.

"He was playing like he was 25 years old again," Avs center John Mitchell said of Giguere following the game in Pittsburgh. "He is doing great out there for us… He makes timely saves again and again, and I couldn't be happier for him."

The win against the Penguins marked Giguere's 38th and last shutout of his career, and he retires in a tie with Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke for 37th all-time in NHL history.

He also continued to climb the league's all-time wins list as he moved into 44th place after making 27 saves and earning his 259th victory on Feb. 3 at New Jersey. Giguere's final win (No. 262) came on April 8 in Edmonton, five days before his last game—an overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on the final day of the regular season.

In that last game against his former club, Giguere was honored with a tribute on the center-ice video scoreboard and was pulled into taking a final lap around the ice with former teammate Teemu Selanne, who was also playing in his final regular-season contest.

“When I saw him, I said, ‘Well this is the time,’” Selanne said about seeing his longtime friend in the postgame handshake line. “Obviously, we have had a great journey together, and we’re good friends. It was an honor to share this night for him, too.”

Giguere will best be remembered for his time with the Ducks from 2000 to 2010 where he helped Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Final twice: in 2003 where he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in the team's losing effort and in 2007 where he helped lead the franchise to its first championship.

His final regular-season numbers include 262 wins, 216 losses, 25 ties, 50 overtimes losses, a 2.53 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 33,719 minutes. His final postseason statistics were even more impressive as he went a 33-17, had a 2.08 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 52 games. And of course, he has those two pieces of playoff hardware.

Selected 13th overall by the Hartford Whalers in the 1995 Entry Draft, Giguere began his career with Hartford in 1996-97 after playing four years of junior hockey in the QMJHL. He only played eight games with the Whalers (all in that first season), but he will forever be linked to Hartford as being the last active player to wear the club's navy, green and silver colors.

He also spent time between the pipes with Calgary and Toronto, but it seemed fitting that he would finish his career in Colorado. The Avalanche was also the team his hockey idol, Patrick Roy, played his final games with as well.

After signing with the Avs as a free agent on July 1, 2011, Giguere immersed himself in the community. Among the Denver area events that he participated in was an equipment drive held in honor of Jessica Redfield Ghawi, a victim of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, helping host low-income families at the Denver Zoo's holiday Zoo Lights, participating with the Make-A-Wish foundation and helping run several practices for the Avalanche Pee-Wee Hockey Team before the squad's trip to the Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament, an event Giguere himself participated in as a young player with the Jr. Canadiens.

A young Jean-Sebastien Giguere with then-Montreal goalie Patrick Roy.

Prior to Giguere going to the Quebec Pee-Wee Tournament as a youth, he was able to meet Roy and was even given one of his goalie sticks. He admitted he broke that stick three times while playing with it in games that season and had his father glue it back together each time.

"It was a lucky stick," Giguere said in a March 2011 interview with "I didn't lose one time with it."

Two decades later, Roy became Giguere's coach.

"It’s pretty cool. I think it’s great," Giguere said on the day Roy was hired with Colorado. "I am excited to get to know him more, but at the same time he remains my coach. I am a player and we need to let the relationship form so that come September you can’t think of him as Patrick Roy the Hall of Fame goaltender. You have to think of him as your coach, and just like any other coach you have to try to learn to know him, try to respect what he’s saying and try to do his system and what he’s going to bring to the team."

Roy showed he had trust in him immediately as he asked Giguere to have 2013 first-round draft pick Nathan MacKinnon live with him and his family last season, helping the 18-year-old get adjusted to life in the NHL.

"I'm going to advise him here and there, but he has his own freedom," Giguere said of having MacKinnon live in the same house with him, his wife, Kristen, and three sons, Maxime-Olivier, Luka and Felix. "It's helpful for him for dinners and stuff like that. I've been around for many years, so I should be able to advise him in some of those things."

MacKinnon said he was grateful to learn from and live with one of the best players of all time.

"I'm very fortunate that he took me into his home and it's been great so far," MacKinnon said to early last season. "He made the offer and I jumped at it. I mean, he's played so many games, and he's accomplished so much. I'm very thankful."

Giguere will now have an expanded role with Blainville-Boisbriand, learning from team general manager Joel Bouchard.

"I want to learn from Joel. He has very good experience and reputation in the QMJHL," Giguere said in French during his news conference with the Armada on Thursday morning. "I'd like to see on a daily basis what it means to be a CEO, President, recruiter ... I think if you want to be a good [director] of hockey, you should know a bit about how things work."

Roy took a similar path with his QMJHL franchise after he retired from the NHL in 2003, as he became part owner, coach and general manager of the Quebec Remparts.

Giguere may not follow his idol to that extent in his post-playing career, but whatever he does in hockey, he'll do it with the passion, knowledge and love for the game that has been part of his entire life.

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