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Gibson's Love For Hockey and Ruisleipä

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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He sounds French around the edges with an accent that suggests a Francophone kid who grew up with English television and video games.

He looks a Quebec goalie, a reed thin, six-foot-one third generation disciple of Francois Allaire, a goalie whose stock and trade is angles and percentages.

But when he thinks about home, he thinks about his favorite food, a brown sweetbread called ruisleipä.

Christopher Gibson's accent isn't French. He is a Finnish goalie who arrived from Saskatchewan to pursue his career in Chicoutimi, the son of a black belt martial arts instructor from England and a Finnish mother.

He may be the only ruisleipä loving goalie in the 2011 Home Hardware Top Prospects Game although to be fair, that's just a guess. He is likely the only Finnish goalie coached by Don Cherry.

The story begins 30 years ago when a British man named Peter Gibson acquires a black belt and falls in love with a Finnish aux pere named Ulla Perttilahti who is working in England.

The two head back to Finland where the martial arts business thrives. So does the marital one. Ulla takes a job selling medical supplies and they have two children, one who would develop into a young goalie who patterns himself after Mikka Kirprusoff.

Everything is coursing along predictably until the kid goes to a tournament in Quebec.

"After that tournament, all I wanted to do was stay in North America," he said.

"My parents said 'go-go'. They knew I wanted to go and they knew playing in North America would be a big step forward."

Somehow he was invited to play at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan.

Next thing he knew, he was the property of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens which rarely happens to a kid playing in Saskatchewan.  He has no idea how it happened. "Someone contacted me through an agent who wasn't my agent," he said. That fits.

In his first season Gibson struggled with new shooting angles and the in-your-face play of the North American game. This year has been much better. His goalie coach Marc Denis has dragged him from the goal line to the top of the blue ice.

The Sagueneens are not a formidable lot and Gibson's fate is to look brilliant in defeat. His has a 8-19 record and a 3.50 goals against average.

But this is draft year and the time is ripe for a Finnish kid named Christopher Gibson to stand in the NHL draft.

He misses Finland and his hometown in the shadow of Helsinki. He has acclimatized himself with North America's curious love of fast food but disdain for saunas.

"My home is Canada," he said and you believe him.

Where else would he go?

Author: Mike Ulmer | Mapleleafs.commentator

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