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The netminder holds multiple Flames' franchise records, including most wins and shutouts

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

Stirring oration has never been one of Miikka Kiprusoff's strong suits.

He was never going to launch into an "Ask not what you can do for your country …"-style JFK inauguration speech between periods of a close playoff tilt or unleash a "We shall fight on the beaches!" call-to-arms like Winston Churchill did in the British House of Commons in 1940 to rally the forces in a time of need.

On being inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame at the venerable old Jäähalli in Helsinki on Thursday, Kiprusoff's acceptance speech was, predictably, brief.

Thirteen words.

"And I'll bet I know what the 13 words were,'' joked Craig Conroy, an old teammate.

"'I don't speak Finnish, so this is going to be short. Thank you.'

"Is that 13?"

On the dot.

"He actually showed up?" joked Flames' assistant coach Martin Gelinas, another privy to the magic during Calgary's stirring 2004 run to the Stanley Cup finals.

 "Now that's the surprise."

Among the other inductees was former Calgary defenceman Tony Lydman (that's Lood-man to you), who spent four season here and right winger Jukka Hentunen, a Flame for all of 28 games during the 2000-01 season.

But if nothing else, Thursday's overseas inductions give us the happy excuse to once again recall the magnificence of Kiprusoff, full-time interstellar goaltender and part-time mime.

Not that anyone around here of a certain vintage could ever forget.

"He didn't have the longevity of a Patrick Roy or a Martin Brodeur,'' reasons Conroy, now, of course, the Calgary Flames' assistant GM. "But during a five- or six-year stretch, he was the best goalie in the world.

"I've played with a lot of great goalies. Patrick Roy. Fuhrsie (Grant Fuhr). Mike Vernon. But Kipper ranks right up there."

"Any time a goalie takes you that far, he's special,'' chimes in Gelinas. "In '94, when I went to the finals with Vancouver, Kirk McLean was guy that for us. In '99, with Bill Ranford in Edmonton when we won, same thing.

"But Kipper, for six years or so, he was as impactful as any goalie in the league. I mean, without Kipper …

"Some guys, they're just so technically sound. Other guys, they just stop everything. That was Kipper, he just stopped everything.

"When it was 1-1, you knew he wasn't going to let in another one. You just … knew."

Oddly, for Conroy, the first memory of Kiprusoff that pops to mind isn't a glove snag out of the arena lights or a filthy-good pad theft to preserve a late lead.

"For me,'' he confesses, "it wasn't even during a game. It was his first day at practice with us. Darryl (Sutter) kept telling us, 'He's a good goalie, he's a good goalie,' but none of us had really ever seen him, right? So you go look at the numbers and you're thinking, 'C'mon, how good could this guy be?'

"Then we did a few drills and I'm like 'Holy …' So quick side to side, he made five or six highlight reel saves. In practice. And I remember sitting next to Jarome (Iginla) and saying, 'Wooooo, we might just have something here.'

"One day of practice. And then, of course, the games started and he was just lights out.

"I go back and forth, all those playoff games. He was just so resilient, Kipper. I couldn't tell if gave up 10 or gave up one. In that 2004 series against Detroit, we got killed in Game 2 there. 

"I almost felt more comfortable after a bad game because there's was no doubt in anybody's mind that we were going to get three or four great ones."

Selecting a favourite save?

"So many,'' mutters Conroy. "So many. The one in San Jose, maybe, where he's lying on his stomach, the puck's going in and he kicks his leg or his foot up and stops the shot.

"I remember being on the ice at the time, seeing the puck and thinking 'Ahhhh …' And then, all of sudden, he's throwing his leg up and kicking it away. Unbelievable. You still see that one on all the highlight packages.

"But there are too many to count."

When Kiprusoff retired on Sept. 10, 2013, he held Flames' goaltending franchise records in games played (576), wins (305) and shutouts (41). 

Typically, he didn't even attend his own farewell press conference.

And he's still the only one in the colours to cart home a Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender -- a trophy that the team collected on his behalf as he did not attend the NHL Awards.

On Thursday, Miikka Kiprusoff was inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame. And, as Martin Gelinas noted, the crazy thing was that he actually showed up.

The 13 words, translated, by the way, poked a bit of fun at former Jokerit team owner Hjallis Harkemo, another inductee and ended with "Kiitos kaikille", Finnish for "Thanks everybody."

Now that he's in the Hall at home, it's fun to debate whether, sometime down the road, Miikka Kiprusoff might have the goods for a follow up at 30 Yonge St. in Toronto.

His body of work, comparatively, is small. But the quality, unquestioned.

"He didn't have, say 10 years right at the very top,'' reckons Conroy in reply.

"As I said, though, for five or six years he was the best goalie in the world. Is that enough to get you into the Hall of Fame? I don't know. 

"I'm admittedly biased. I watched the guy every day. I understood how important he was to us.

"Like I said, I'm not exactly sure of the criteria and it's certainly not my decision to make.

"But five or six years as the best in the world? That, to me, at least puts you in the conversation."

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