In the same building where he grinded through countless games, played his way to a Conn Smythe Trophy during one Stanley Cup Final and captured the Cup in another, J.S. Giguere never looked more relaxed than he did Tuesday night at Honda Center.
The 40-year-old Giguere, who has been retired from the game since 2014, dropped by the arena to take in the Ducks-Capitals game during a family vacation through California with wife Kristen and their three sons, Maxime, Luka and Felix. The family resides in Montreal, near where Giguere grew up, and he spends his days coaching his sons in hockey, spending one day a week as a TV analyst on French-language broadcasts and mostly enjoying the free time he wasn't afforded during his 16 seasons in the NHL.
Giguere's place in Ducks lore is well-documented, as he carried the Ducks to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2003 while becoming just the fifth player in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe while playing for the losing team. Four years later, he solidified his place as one of the best playoff goalies of his era, going 13-4 with a 1.97 goals-against average in helping Anaheim capture California's First Cup. He is still the Ducks franchise leader in career games played (447), wins (206) and shutouts (32) and yet remains his humble and affable self.
That was on display Tuesday night as he made the rounds at Honda Center clad in a sharp linen jacket, flowery shirt and spectacles, stopping to say hello to several of those he got to know during his nearly a decade in Anaheim and taking some time to reflect on his career and post-hockey life.
It's been a few years since you retired. How are you handling it?
Oh, great. I wouldn't want to go back, that's for sure. [Laughs] I was really ready to retire when it happened. Financially I was all set and ready to go, and mentally and physically as well. I had a plan of what I wanted to do after I finished playing, and things have been good.
What was part of that plan? What have you been able to do that you couldn't do during your playing days?
Well, spend time with my kids, first and foremost. I coach all three of them in hockey, and that's mostly my main priority. My oldest is a goalie and the two others are forwards for now. I don't think I want them to be goalies. And I live in Montreal, so it's easy to get a job in TV over there. I work once a week, and it's very easy and low key, and I'm very fortunate. It's also nice to be able to travel like we're doing now, and enjoy some family time. That's what it's all about. My parents really taught me growing up that everything's about family, and that's why we moved back to Montreal, to be closer to family. We're very happy there.
Was it tough to get used to retirement?
No, actually. I was ready to retire, so when the time came, it was easy. That makes a big difference. Not many players can retire when they want to. Fortunately, I knew [2013-14] was my last season, a little bit like Beauch [Francois Beauchemin] does now. It's nice because you can do a lot of "last time" things, and it makes it pleasurable that way.
Speaking of that, one of your great moments in this arena was the victory lap you took with Teemu Selanne after the final regular season game here for both of you. What do you remember about that night?
That was a great moment, and it was all Teemu's doing. He just really wanted to share that with me, and I was very … I didn't want to steal his moment. I thought he deserved to just have that moment alone, but he was insistent. And I'm glad he was because that was probably one of the top 5 moments in my career.
You've been back here a few times since that night. What does it mean for you to be back in this building?
I have a lot of friends here and stuff like that, and it's always nice to be here. It feels like home, like a second home to me. My two oldest were born here in Orange County, and we love to go back and see the house we lived in back then. It brings back nice memories.
The last time you were here was for the 10-Year Celebration of the Stanley Cup. What was that experience like?
That was so much fun, maybe too much fun. [Laughs] I remember most of it, but we had a blast for sure.
People talk about that team being one of the best in modern history. Did you know it was a special team at the time?
That team was special from the get go. I don't think there was a doubt in anyone's mind that that's where we were heading. I think when you can have guys like Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger on your team, either playing together or separately, it makes your team so much stronger. It makes you an elite team right off the bat. We had very talented forwards who could score some goals and on top of it, we were one of the toughest teams in the league. Nobody wanted to play us.
And a playoff-proven goaltender…
And a playoff … whatever. [Laughs] That was easy for me. Everyone else did their job and made it easy on me. But it was a good team, well-coached and well-prepared. We never really had a doubt we were heading for something great.