No member of the Calgary Flames will ever wear No. 34 again. That forever belongs to former goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Flames announced the retirement of Kiprusoff’s number and a ceremony to raise the fan-favourite’s digits to the rafters on March 2, as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s another step in the re-facing of the Calgary Flames franchise after they promoted Craig Conroy to general manager this summer and added one of his best friends and former teammates to the front office in Hall-of-Famer Jarome Iginla as an adviser.
The nameplate and number of their longtime teammate, Kiprusoff, will hang beside Iginla’s over the Saddledome ice.
“We are proud to build on the Flames legacy by paying tribute to one of the all-time greats in Flames history. On behalf of the Flames ownership and the organization, we congratulate Miikka on an amazing career and this well-earned and rare achievement,” Conroy said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are thrilled to have his No. 34 deservingly displayed at the Scotiabank Saddledome so Flames fans can celebrate his contributions for years to come.
“And for me, personally, it was a privilege to have been his teammate. Under that mask was a fierce competitor who gave us the confidence and an opportunity to win every night.”
Kiprusoff is arguably one of the most talented goaltenders in NHL history, and may be the best ever to suit up for the Calgary Flames. His heroics hid many of the team’s other flaws as the team reached the Stanley Cup final in 2004. He helped the team win the Pacific Division the following season after the lockout, earning the William Jennings Trophy for lowest goals-against average and the Vezina Trophy voting as top goaltender in the NHL in 2005-06. The Flames made the playoffs in his first five seasons with the team after a trade brought him over from the San Jose Sharks – likely the best move then-GM Darryl Sutter ever made.
“I am honoured and humbled by this recognition of my career in Calgary. To have my name and number hanging next to those great Flames players and especially my friend and legendary goalie Mike Vernon, is truly a highlight of my career,” Kiprusoff said in a statement.
“I loved my time in Calgary. The fans are amazing and it’s a wonderful place to live and play. Hockey really means something here and I was proud to wear the Flaming C and call Calgary my home for nine years I would like to thank the Flames ownership, the organization, and the fans for my time in Calgary and for this tremendous honour.”
A product of Turku, Finland, Kiprusoff played nine of his 12-year career with the Calgary Flames and retired as the franchise leader in wins (305), shutouts (41), goals-against average (2.46), save percentage (.913) and games played by a goaltender (576). He also is the franchise leader in playoff shutouts (six) and sits second behind Hockey Hall of Famer Vernon in games played and wins in the playoffs. Kipper was a Hart Trophy finalist in 2006 and a three-time Vezina finalist.
He holds the four single highest regular-season win totals for the Flames, including 45 in 2008-09.
“Since I was informed, there have been so many favourite moments that come flooding back. The 2004 Stanley Cup run is the most vivid of course. We were so close to bringing another Cup to Calgary,” Kiprusoff said. “That weekend will also be a good time to see so many former teammates from that run and relive those fond memories.
“My boys, Aaro and Oskar (Päka), were too young to really understand how special it was to play in the NHL and how important the team and the players are to Calgary fans. I can’t wait for March and to share this experience with my family.”
Kiprusoff formally announced his retirement on September 9, 2013.