The end of the 2019-20 Ducks season was made official when the NHL announced its Return to Play Plan on May 26. Anaheim concluded the season with a 29-33-9 record and 67 points, having played 71 games until the regular season was paused March 12 and eventually deemed completed May 26 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over this offseason we're featuring a different Ducks player in numerical order in our annual player review series highlighting key stats and moments from the past season. You can find published pieces and a full schedule on this landing page.
Those close to Ducks goaltender John Gibson know the kind of guy he is, one that is generous, passionate, competitive and dedicated to making an impact on the lives of others. To a lot of folks, though, Gibson is the stoic and even-keeled man in the crease, rarely from one extreme to the other.
But perhaps for the first time in his NHL career, Gibson showed this past season that he's a man of growth, both on the ice and in the local community. Time certainly does seem to fly by, as the 2019-20 campaign marked his fifth NHL season in Anaheim. The 27-year-old netminder went 20-26-5 with one shutout, a 3.00 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 51 appearances. It marked also marked his fourth consecutive season with 50 games or more.
He finished the season tied for the 10th-highest career SV% (.918) among all-time NHL goaltenders with at least 200 games played, and also finished tied for fifth among active players. Gibson posted his 19th career shutout, the fourth-most in franchise history, in a 3-0 win on Nov. 25 vs. the New York Islanders. His 20th win of the season came in a 26-performance on March 6 vs. Toronto giving him five straight seasons of 20 wins or more.
At least a couple times a season, Gibson provides some truly jaw-dropping saves. He delivered again in 2019-20.
There was this one on Jan. 5 when he lunged to make a game-saving stop on Nashville forward Rocco Grimaldi that kept the Ducks alive in overtime, which earned a spot on Sportsnet's Saves of the Week compilation. Gibson followed it up with saves on four of the five Predators in a shootout to help give the Ducks a 5-4 victory.
Video: NSH@ANA: Gibson shuts the door on Grimaldi
Three weeks later, Gibson robbed Derek Stepan in a game the Ducks won 4-2 over Arizona back on Jan. 29 at Honda Center.
Video: ARI@ANA: Gibson robs Stepan with marvelous stop
Gibson does more than just letting his play to do the talking. In a postgame interview following a 3-1 victory in Detroit on Oct. 8, Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins had this to say about the club's No. 1 netminder. "John Gibson has a massive amount of leadership skills in him and he's the best goalie in the game. I can't imagine anything better for a team. That kid is so dialed in and the leadership is oozing out of him."
As the Red Wings were drawing up a game plan with an extra attacker in the final minutes of regulation, Gibson was the one doing the talking by the Ducks bench. "He was reminding the guys, and we didn't have to say a word," Eakins said. "That's when you know guys are dialed in and the leadership is pouring out of them."
In a game on Jan. 31 vs. Tampa Bay, Gibson wore a Kobe Bryant tribute mask just days after the tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas. The mask featured a silhouette of Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, surrounded by the names of the seven other victims of the tragedy: baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester, basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Aside from being one of the best goaltenders in the game, Gibson is using his prominence to make a difference with others. He's the Ducks' player ambassador for the NHL's Hockey Is for Everyone program, which promotes the league's broad diversity and inclusion initiatives. The NHL describes the ambassador as a player who "serves as a leader in the locker room, a leader in the community, and a public advocate to speak up and inspire others."
Last year, he and wife Alexa teamed up with San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey as a way to give back to the hockey community. The Gibsons hosted two suite nights and an on-ice clinic for the sled team during the 2018-19 season. They loved it so much they decided to expand their reach for the 2019-20 campaign.
What they did was create a charitable program supporting adaptive and inclusive hockey programs called Gibson's Goals. The Gibsons created this program to advocate for and provide individuals of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy the sport of hockey.
Back on Sept. 16 after Ducks training camp wrapped up for the day, John and Alexa stayed at Great Park Ice to spend time with players from various disabled hockey programs. Among them were the San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey team, blind hockey and special needs hockey programs. Gibson laced up a pair of skates and joined them on the ice.
"We're trying to spread the news to other people that hockey is a game you can try," Gibson said. "Help any way we can, whether it's bringing about awareness or helping with ice time. Make sure they have ice and all the equipment they need."
A little goes a very long way, as Rinks Director of Marketing Jesse Chatfield said that day. "For those athletes, it's really special for them to see someone at the highest level take time and be a part of their program. Not just from a 'Let me stop by and sign an autograph,' but to get on the ice, provide pointers and relate to those athletes. It's super impactful. They all came off saying how great of a day it was, just feeling a little more of a personal connection to a Ducks superstar they look up to."
The Gibsons followed in the footsteps of Cam and Jasmine Fowler, who in 2018 created C4Kids, a program that provides youth with opportunities to learn, play and love hockey.
"It's like a big family," Alexa said. "It's really cool. We didn't know at first both Cam and Jasmine, and John and I, were talking to the Ducks trying to figure something out. It's really cool to see how much they've progressed already. They started C4Kids last year, and they're already doing events. It's a great thing for the Ducks family. Seeing how far C4Kids has come, we're in our beginning stages. To see how much the Ducks have supported them, it's so encouraging. It's good to know somebody is supporting you."
Through their work with the San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey team over the years, they formed a close bond with 16-year-old Lera Doederlein. Already on the ice with Doederlein during his on-ice clinic visit that day, Gibson was joined by teammate Josh Manson, who presented Doederlein with her 21st Duck jersey.
"Before Manson came out, Lera was fixing her hair getting ready for the [group] picture," Gibson said. "One minute later, she's the 21st Duck and invited to our practice. She was excited. Everything she's fought through. Her story, to give her the recognition and have her come out with us, it's an honor she'll be out there with us."
Video: We're honored to unveil our 21st Duck Lera Doederlein
On April 1, the Gibsons welcomed a new addition to the family, daughter Sophia. It doesn't seem that long ago when Gibson, 20 at the time, made his eagerly awaited NHL debut on April 7, 2014. Now, he's a husband, father, player ambassador and so much more.