Jean-Sébastien Giguère, a 17-year National Hockey League veteran and the last remaining member of the Hartford Whalers active in the NHL, announced his retirement from hockey on Thursday. The 37-year-old Montreal native spent last season as a back-up netminder with the Colorado Avalanche.
Drafted in the first round—No. 13 overall—by the Whalers with a pick acquired from the Rangers for Pat Verbeek in the 1995 draft, Giguère played in eight games Hartford at the tail end of the 1996-97 season with the Whalers. During that offseason, Giguère, nicknamed “Jiggy,” was traded to Calgary along with center Gary Roberts for forward Gary Roberts and center Trevor Kidd. He spent most of his four years in the Calgary system, primarily with the St. John (New Brunswick) Flames of the AHL.
In June of 2000, he was traded to Anaheim, where he finally made his mark, where he led the Ducks past the defending champion Detroit Red Wings while on their way toward an improbable run to the NHL Finals in 2003. That year Giguère set the record—since broken by Robert Luongo of the Vancover Canucks—for most saves by a goaltender in his NHL playoff debut (63 in the Ducks’ 2-1 triple-overtime win over the Red Wings in Game One). The “Anaheim Express” was eventually derailed by the New Jersey Devils, who defeated the Ducks four games to three in the NHL Final Series. That year, Giguère was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded annually to the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs—even though his team did not win. It was just the fifth (and last) time a player on the losing side of the coin earned the Conn Smythe, and only five players in NHL history—Patrick Roy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Bernie Parent—have won the award more than once.
Giguère went on to play 11 more seasons with the Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Avalanche before retiring yesterday. In 2009, and made three All-Star Game appearances in his illustrious career, finishing with a regular-season record of 262-216-75, a goals-against average of 2.53, and 38 shutouts in 597 games. And as good as he was in the regular season, Giguère’s record is even better in the postseason where he earned a 33-17 record, a 2.08 GAA and six shutouts in 52 appearances.
“[The Whalers were my] first team,” Giguère told the Denver Post in 2013. “I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it’ll always be special to me, the team and the organization” he’ll get a chance to close out his career with a final appearance in Hartford.
“It was too bad the team had to move, because they had a lot of great fans,” continued Giguère. “But those things happen sometimes.”