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Welcome Back, Jiggy

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

The indelible images are burned in the memories of most Ducks fans, the unforgettable moments given to us by one of the franchise’s most iconic figures:

Jean-Sebastien Giguere carrying an upstart Mighty Ducks team all the way to Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup championship before that improbable run came to a heartbreaking end in New Jersey. A heavily bearded and downtrodden Giguere accepting the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, just the fifth player from a losing team to win it. 

Giguere backstopping the Ducks through a magical 2007 Stanley Cup run, despite missing the start of that postseason when his first son Maxime was born with an eye condition. That Stanley Cup Final Game 5 in Anaheim, the seconds winding down to zero as a young Ryan Getzlaf and then Corey Perry leap into Giguere’s arms, soon joined by Scott Niedermayer and the rest of that Ducks team to celebrate a glorious Cup championship. And there's the majestic photo to the right, Giguere skating with Maxime in his arms on ice sprinkled with black, gold and orange confetti -- a man and his son seemingly alone, basking in the glory of reaching the ultimate goal in team sports.

More Giguere photos

But the last couple of years, the images we’ve seen of the man we call “Jiggy” have been in something that was once unthinkable: a different uniform. Two seasons ago, with Jonas Hiller’s emergence relegating Giguere to mostly a backup role in Anaheim, he was traded to Toronto on January 31, 2010 for Jason Blake and goalie Vesa Toskala.

Giguere spent the rest of that season and another in Toronto, battling through injuries for much of that time. Over the summer, he had surgery on a sports hernia and was signed by the Colorado Avalanche. Tomorrow night, when the Avs come to Honda Center to face the Ducks,  it will be Giguere’s first time back in Anaheim since the trade.

“I’m very excited to go back,” Giguere said during a cheerful conference call with media this morning. “It’s been almost two years since I played a game there in Anaheim, and I never really got a chance to say thank you to people who meant a lot to me there. I got traded when I was on the road, and it was a quick exit.

"It’s nice to be able to go where I feel is my second home and where my kids were born. It’s a special place for me and a place where I’ve had the most success in my career. I’m just real thrilled to go back. This game has been on my mind all year.”

Giguere will be honored during the first TV timeout tomorrow night, a game with a special New Year's Eve start time of 5:05 p.m. (tickets are still available.). The video board will show a montage of his greatest moments as a Duck, and the home crowd will no doubt stand and cheer the man who holds all of the major goaltending records in franchise history and made 13,820 saves in a Ducks uniform. Most of all, they’ll be cheering for the memories he gave us.

“I’m hoping the reaction is going to be good,” said Giguere modestly. “I think people have always respected me there and I’ve always tried to present myself professionally, so I’m hoping for a good reaction. Hopefully it’s going to be a good night.”

My other all-time favorite Giguere photo (mostly because of the anthem lyrics), taken during the '07 Stanley Cup Final. My dad has this framed in his den.
Teemu Selanne was asked about Giguere yesterday and could only smile (check out the video). “He was a huge part of our team on and off the ice,” he said. “What he did for this organization was remarkable, unbelievable. He was rock solid every year. He’s going to get a big [ovation] for sure.”

Giguere was brought to Colorado as a backup to young Semyon Varlamov, but he has logged significant time in net this season – 15 games to Varlamov’s 26 -- while posting strong numbers in net. 

“I think the situation has been perfect for me here,” said the 34-year-old Giguere. “I knew at this point I wasn’t going to get a No. 1 job somewhere, so the next best case scenario was to go somewhere with a young guy that I can help out and push him. It becomes a competition for ice time, but at the same time that’s how you make yourself better. I can show him some tricks of the trade, be a good teammate to him.

“Obviously Denver is a great city to live in and raise kids, and that was part of the decision too. I was excited when they called and I haven’t regretted it, that’s for sure.”

Having been traded three times in his NHL lifetime, Giguere knows full well the harsh realities of the business of pro sports, something he acknowledged today. “I always tried to be a good teammate, a guy that’s positive around the room,” he said. “I just wanted to be remembered as a good guy, a nice person. You know these guys a long time and they become your friends, and then from one minute to the next, you’re saying goodbye. But trades are part of the business. You say your goodbyes and go to work again.”

“It’s something you have to face sometimes as a professional athlete that’s not always fun. You’d like to stay in one place your whole career, but there are only a handful of players who get to do that for their career. As much as I loved my time in Anaheim, I feel like it was a good trade for me at the time.” 

So, there are certainly no hard feelings from either side when Giguere makes his return tonight. He says he’ll have a pregame meal with Francois Beauchemin (a former teammate in both Anaheim and Toronto) at the team's old favorite spot in Tustin. “And I’ll obviously get to see the guys before the game, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Before Giguere got off the phone this afternoon, he was asked what he thought his legacy was in Anaheim. He had difficulty answering, and paused before finally saying, “Winning the Cup and going to the Finals in 2003, those were things that don’t happen all the time, and I obviously didn’t do that on my own. A bunch of guys contribute to that. Those are the things I’m most proud of, what we did as a team, as a group. No one can take that away from us.”

They can’t take away the memories either, and we’ll all be pleasantly reminded of them when we see Jiggy one more time tomorrow night.

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The Ducks go into that game coming off a disappointing 5-2 loss last night to a very good Vancouver team. It's a tough one to take, especially after the Ducks looked so good in taking down the Sharks in their building on Monday night. But the Ducks had a few too many giveaways, and Vancouver is too good a team not to take advantage.

"The one thing we said is we can’t give them easy plays and we can’t beat ourselves," said Bruce Boudreau. "You could look at all five goals as being based on turnovers. You can’t turn the puck over against a team that is that offensively gifted."

There is not a whole lot more to say about the game than what is in the recap, which you can read here.
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