Miikka Kiprusoff

Miikka Sakari Kiprusoff (Born October 26, 1976) is a Finnish professional ice hockey goaltender currently playing for the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League (NHL). He was selected in the fifth round, 116th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He has also played for TPS of the Finnish SM-liiga as well as AIK and Timrå IK of the Swedish Elitserien. He has represented Finland several times on the international stage, earning silver medals at the World Ice Hockey Championships in 1999 and 2001, as well as leading the Finns to a surprise second place finish at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He also helped the Finnish national hockey team win the bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Kiprusoff began his professional career with TPS in 1994, and was named the best goaltender and best player of the playoffs in 1999 as he led them to the SM-liiga championship. He moved to North America in 1999, and after two all-star seasons in the American Hockey League, made his NHL debut with the Sharks where he served primarily as a backup. A trade to Calgary in 2003–04 brought Kiprusoff into a starting role and he set a modern NHL record for lowest goals against average at 1.69 as he helped the Flames reach the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. He won the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the NHL in 2006 along with the William M. Jennings Trophy for giving up the fewest goals in the league. He played in his first NHL All-Star Game in 2007 and is the Flames franchise record holder in shutouts.


Kiprusoff was sponsored by his hometown team, TPS Turku, playing two seasons in the Finnish junior league for them between 1993 and 1995. He was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the fifth round, 116th overall, at the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.[1] He made his professional début in 1994–95, and won three of four games played for TPS. After playing 12 games for TPS in 1995–96, he moved to AIK of the Swedish Elitserien, playing two seasons as their top goaltender before returning to TPS in 1998–99. He dominated the SM-liiga that year, finishing the season with a win-loss-tie record of 26–6–6 and a goals against average (GAA) of 1.85,[1] and led TPS to the Finnish championship.[2] For his efforts, he was named the winner of the Urpo Ylönen trophy as the best goaltender in 1998–99 and the Jari Kurri trophy as the best player of the playoffs.[3]

San Jose Sharks

Kiprusoff moved to North America in 1999, joining the Sharks American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Kentucky Thoroughblades. He finished fourth in the league with a 2.48 GAA and was the starting goaltender for team PlanetUSA at the 2000 AHL All-Star Game as he helped Kentucky win its first division title.[2] He began the 2000–01 season with Kentucky where he posted a record of 19–9–6 with two shutouts in 39 games.[1] He started his second consecutive AHL All-Star game before earning a recall to the Sharks on March 5, 2001.[2] He earned his first NHL win on March 29, 7–4 over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, in relief of starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.[4] He made his first start on April 8, again against Anaheim, and earned his second win.[2]

The flu sidelined Nabokov for game four of the Sharks 2001 Stanley Cup playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. Making only his second career start, Kiprusoff made 39 saves in a 3–2 victory.[5] In doing so, he became the first Finnish born goaltender to win an NHL playoff game.[2] Kiprusoff struggled to start the 2001–02 NHL season and was sent to the Cleveland Barons on a conditioning assignment after playing in only four of the Sharks first 21 games.[6] He was named the AHL player of the week during the assignment after winning all four games he played in Cleveland.[2] He finished the season with a 7–6–1 record for the Sharks,[1] and recorded his first NHL shutout in a 6–0 win over the Florida Panthers on January 5, 2002.[7]

Nabokov entered the 2002–03 season as a holdout player without a contract, giving Kiprusoff a chance to become the starter.[8] Kiprusoff struggled, losing his first three games and posting a 5.65 GAA in that time, forcing the Sharks hand as they quickly agreed to terms with Nabokov.[9] Relegated to the backup role, Kiprusoff continued to struggle, winning just five of 22 games played before his season ended with a knee injury.[10] Despite his poor season, the Sharks offered him a new contract for one year at US$800,000.[11]

Kiprusoff began the 2003–04 season competing with Vesa Toskala for the backup spot behind Nabokov, leading to speculation of a trade.[12] Relegated to third-string status, Kiprusoff grew increasingly frustrated as he did not play in any games through the first quarter of the season.[13] He was finally traded to the Calgary Flames for a second round draft pick on November 16, 2003, after Calgary starter Roman Turek suffered an injury.[14]

Calgary Flames

a hockey goaltender in a white jersey with a stylized red C logo on his chest and his mask raised above his forehead stares down at the ice as he is skating.

Kiprusoff in 2007.

The trade provided immediate dividends for the Flames, as Kiprusoff recorded 22 saves in a 2–1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in his first game with Calgary on November 20.[15] He won 12 of 17 starts between November 20 and December 29, giving up one goal or fewer 11 times in that stretch.[16] He was named the defensive player of the month for December by the league,[2] but suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee at the end of the month that forced him out of the lineup for four weeks.[17]

Kiprusoff’s play remained strong upon his return as he was counted on to lead the Flames to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.[18] A 1–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes clinched a berth in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Flames, an achievement which earned Kiprusoff a standing ovation from the Calgary fans.[19] He finished the regular season with a modern NHL record low GAA of 1.69.[2] His stellar play continued into the playoffs as he won 15 games, five of them by shutout, leading the Flames to within one victory of a Stanley Cup championship.[20] He was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender in the league,[21] and was given a one-year, $2.95 million contract for 2004–05 by an arbitrator, an increase in salary of nearly four times his previous contract.[22]

As the 2004–05 lockout led to the cancellation of the season, Kiprusoff chose to play in Sweden.[23] He played 41 games for Timrå IK, recording five shutouts and a 2.14 GAA.[2] He remained a top goaltender for Calgary when NHL play resumed in 2005–06, breaking Mike Vernon‘s franchise record when he recorded his 40th win of the season, against the Minnesota Wild on April 8, 2006.[24] He was not only touted as the top goaltender in the league, but also argued to be a candidate for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL.[25] Finishing the season with a 42–20–11 record and a team record 10 shutouts, he was named a first team all-star and awarded the Vezina Trophy, as well as the William M. Jennings Trophy for being the goaltender on the team that gave up the fewest goals in during the season.[2] He was also named a finalist for the Hart,[26] though the award was won by Joe Thornton.[27]

View from behind the left shoulder of a goaltender as he reaches out with his left hand and catches a puck shot into his glove as several players look on.

Kiprusoff making a save against the San Jose Sharks in 2007.

Kiprusoff struggled to begin the 2006–07 season, winning just four of his first 12 decisions, and giving up nearly three goals per game.[28] He rebounded to finish the season with 40 wins, won his 100th career game, and played in his first All-Star Game.[2] He recorded his 21st shutout in a Flames uniform in a 1–0 win over the Wild on March 27, 2007, to break Dan Bouchard‘s franchise record.[29] Kiprusoff was outstanding in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, keeping the overmatched Flames close to the top seeded Detroit Red Wings despite the Flames giving up nearly 50 shots per game in their first two contests. He led them to consecutive wins in games three and four to even the series and give the Flames hope they could win the series,[30] but the Flames were unable to parlay his performance into a series win, losing the best-of-seven series 4–2.[2] He earned his third consecutive nomination for the Vezina trophy, ultimately won by Martin Brodeur.[31]

Nicknamed “Captain Hook” for the way he handled goaltenders, the Flames decision to hire Mike Keenan as head coach in 2007–08 created speculation that Kiprusoff might choose to leave Calgary when his contract expired at the end of the season.[32] Nonetheless, he agreed to a six-year extension worth $35 million that would keep him in Calgary until the end of the 2013–14 season.[33] He struggled at times, as his goals against average and save percentage fell outside of the top 30 goaltenders in the league by mid-November.[34] His play improved throughout the season,[35] and he finished the season third in the league with 39 wins.[2]

Hoping to rebound in 2008–09, Kiprusoff arrived for the start of the season in better shape, but continued to struggle as he was questioned on whether his heavy workload the previous three seasons – he played 76, 74 and 74 games of a possible 82 – were taking a toll on him.[36] He won his 200th career game on March 18, 2009, in a 2–1 victory over the Dallas Stars,[37] but questions about whether he was playing too many games continued throughout the season.[38] Although he led the league with 45 wins, his statistical averages had deteriorated for the fourth consecutive season as he admitted he struggled.[39]

Miikka Kiprusoff with helmet up.jpg

New head coach Brent Sutter promised that Kiprusoff would face a lighter schedule in 2009–10, he played 76 games in 2008–09, while Kiprusoff hired a personal trainer and set aside his previously indifferent attitude towards off-season training.[40] His efforts appeared to pay dividends early in the season, as he lost only three of his first 17 decisions, leading his teammates to compare his early performance to his first years in Calgary.[41] He finished in the top ten in the league in wins, save percentage and goals against average and while considered a potential candidate for the Vezina Trophy, he was not named a finalist in part due to the fact the Flames failed to qualify for the playoffs.[42]

Kiprusoff, and the entire Flames team, struggled early in the 2010–11 season, and during a period of struggle late in January, he became a target of the fans’ jeering. He admitted that he had struggled and was trying to focus on returning his play to where he felt it should be.[43] Kiprusoff’s fortunes improved in February, as he won his 250th game as a member of the Flames in a 9–1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on February 14.[44] Six nights later he became the first goaltenter in NHL history to record a shutout in an outdoor game with a 4–0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the 2011 Heritage Classic.[45] In a March 4 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he became the first goaltender in 25 years to stop two penalty shots in one game to preserve a 4–3 victory.[46]

International career

Medal record
a goaltender in a blue and white uniform looks to his left as he stretches his legs
Kiprusoff backstopped Finland to a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Competitor for Finland Finland
Men’s ice hockey
Olympic Games
Bronze 2010 Vancouver Ice hockey
World Championship
Silver 1999 Norway Ice hockey
Silver 2001 Germany Ice hockey
World Cup
Silver 2004 World Cup of Hockey Ice hockey

Kiprusoff made his international debut with the Finnish junior team at the 1994 European Junior Ice Hockey Championships where he played in three games.[1] He was a member of the team at the 1995 and 1996 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships where Finland finished fourth and sixth respectively. He first played with the senior team at the 1999 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships where he recorded a 1.16 Goals against average in four games to help Finland win the silver medal. He rejoined the team for the 2001 tournament, again leading the Finns to a silver medal.[2]

He was offered a spot on the Finnish team for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but declined citing a desire to focus on his professional career in North America.[47] Kiprusoff was named the starting goaltender for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and earned a shutout against the Czech Republic.[48] He posted four wins and a tie, including a second shutout, and a 1.18 GAA to lead the upstart Finns into the championship game against Canada.[49] In spite of his 30 saves, the Finns were defeated by Canada 3–2. Kiprusoff did not play his best game in the final according to head coach Raimo Summanen, though he expressed pride in his team’s effort.[50]

Kiprusoff again declined an invitation to play at the 2006 Winter Olympics citing the need to rest a hip injury. His announcement generated considerable controversy in Finland where the fact that he did not miss a game with the Flames due to the injury led some to question if he was injured at all.[51] Country-mate Teemu Selänne questioned the goaltender’s lack of interest in playing for the national team, a comment that stung Kiprusoff.[52] When considered to play for the Finns at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he said he would join the team, but only if he felt healthy and if he was named the starting goaltender for the team.[53] Kiprusoff was named the starter and allowed only four goals in his team’s first four games, leading the Finns to a semifinal game against the United States. The Americans blitzed Kiprusoff early in the game as he gave up four goals on seven shots in the first minutes of the game before being replaced in net by Niklas Bäckström.[54] He returned to the net for the bronze medal game, leading Finland to a 5–3 victory.[55]

Personal life

Kiprusoff and his fiancée Seidi have a son, Aaro, born in the summer of 2005.[56] His older brother, Marko, is a defenceman who last played for TPS in 2009, and previously played in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders. Kiprusoff is a spokesman for the Rainbow Society of Alberta, an organization that aims to grant wishes for children with chronic or life-threatening conditions. He donates $10 for each save he makes in an NHL game, totalling $18,720 in 2009–10.[57]


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