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ALL-TIME ALL-STARS - KIPRUSOFF

It's hard to find the proper adjectives to describe the fantastic Finn, one of the greatest to ever don the Flaming C

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

They are the best of the best in Calgary Flames history.

Over the past 24 days we profiled our All-Time All-Stars (listed alphabetically at each position). We saved one of the best for last and wrap it up today with the iconic Miikka Kiprusoff . Click here to see all players already selected:

On the day he officially retired, befitting the man and his milieu, Miikka Kiprusoff was nowhere in sight.

"Typical Miikka," mused an amused Clint Malarchuk, the Flames' goaltending coach of the time, on that September 9, 2013 afternoon.

"Just got on his horse and rode off into the sunset."

But what a sunset. A vast, glorious panorama of mind-bending saves, limbo-dancer-esque contortions, trailing legs swatting goal-bound pucks out of mid-air and breathtaking escapes worthy of Indiana Jones.

"There seems to be something every day,'' marvelled teammate Mark Giordano, "that sorta makes you lean back and say: 'Wow!'"

The story long ago went down in local lore, of course - a reclusive, virtually unknown (outside of coach Darryl Sutter) Finnish goaltender acquired Nov. 16, 2003 from the San Jose Sharks as an emergency stop-gap until No.-1 Roman Turek recovered from injury.

He then stuck around nearly nine seasons, played more games, won more games, played more minutes and compiled more shutouts than anyone in franchise annals, before or since.

He lashed a group of lightly-regarded but determined overachievers to his back and piggybacked them through fair winds and foul to the 2004 Stanley Cup final, coming within a one-win whisker of the ultimate prize, that big, jug-eared hunk of silverware that serves as their Grail.

Kiprusoff had his own code (virtual silence) and his own kid (the Kipper Kid, Brendan Peters, starting at nine years old, who'd attend games outfitted head-to-toe in No. 34 goalie gear and go through the motions mimicking his idol). 

He had a Vezina Trophy from 2006 (the only one in franchise history) and an introductory season (38 wins, 1.69 GAA, .933 save percentage, that memorable run to the finals) for the ages.

In the doing, he had won the adoration of an entire area code.

"You look at some other Canadian cities,'' Kiprusoff said once, "and it can be a tough time for goalies. The crowd can be tough for them.

"But I've been lucky. I've a feeling they're always behind me and that's huge for a goalie."

The final image Calgarians have and still hold of an icon came April 20, 2013, a 32-save, first-star-turn 3-1 slapdown of the Anaheim Ducks, giving 19,239 paying customers inside the 'Dome one final opportunity to leap to their feet in tribute, emptying their lungs with chants of "Kip-per! Kip-per! Kip-per!"

Quite the exit. Quite a career.

"He was The Repairman," lauded Kiprusoff's first goaltending guru here, David Marcoux, as a perfect summation. "Whatever needed fixing, Miikka fixed it.

"Taking him for granted? Yes. I think so. Fans here maybe got a little spoiled, seeing him play at such a high level for so many years. But I also think the people of Calgary, the diehard fans who are actually at the games or watching all the time on TV, know what he brought to the table almost every night.

"Was he perfect? No. Nobody is. But he brought it all to his hockey club and was accountable to his teammates. You ask anybody from 2003 to today: 'Do you trust Miikka Kiprusoff?' and the answer would be unanimous."

Among best of an era, anywhere. And the best ever, here.

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