SUN Hockey Pool

Iron Mike sizes up Miikka

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

It's often said goaltenders are a little off centre when it comes to normalcy.

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan has coached many masked men over his career and rarely sees the same personality twice.

"They cover every gamut of personality you can imagine," said Keenan, who has coached an oddball Ed Belfour, college grad Mike Richter, explosive Ron Hextall and difficult-to-understand Dominik Hasek, among many others.

"From an introvert to an extrovert. All different wild personalities."

Miikka Kiprusoff definitely falls in the introvert category.

The often seen and rarely heard Flames goaltender is more Pelle Lindbergh than Hextall, although all three have won the Vezina Trophy.

"Lindbergh never said a word -- hardly ever," recalled Keenan. "Hextall was a little more vocal."

Although Keenan has spent a few weeks getting to know his new players in Calgary, Kiprusoff is still a bit of a mystery.

"I haven't spent a lot of time with him. I haven't had a lot of conversations with him," Keenan said of the Finnish star. "I've talked to him a little bit, but that's part of his personality -- he doesn't speak that much so you don't have an opportunity to have a conversation with him."

Keenan laughs, then reveals the common thread linking all the elite netminders he's had an opportunity to work with.

"They're all fierce competitors, the ones that were the Vezina Trophy winners," he said. "Very professional. Worked extremely hard at their game.

"That's how they became the best goalies in the league."

Lindbergh, Hextall and Belfour won the Vezina with Keenan as their coach. Hasek was a backup under Keenan in Chicago but dominated the category from the mid- to late-90s.

Keenan has inherited another former goalie of the year in Kiprusoff, who makes a first impression that seems to be pretty accurate in the long run.

"He comes across as a very quiet guy. He is quiet, soft-spoken, but very, very funny," said Flames backup Curtis McElhinney, who has spent the past few weeks in the stall next door to the soon-to-be 31-year-old. "He's very relaxed."

The most surprising thing he has learned about Kiprusoff is there's no difference between the starter on the ice and off the ice.

"What you see out there on the ice, how relaxed he looks, is exactly the way he is in here," said McElhinney. "He doesn't have to get into a mindset."

Anders Eriksson has seen glimpses of Kiprusoff's biting humour throughout training camp.

"I like Miikka. Miikka's fun," he said. "He's quiet for a while, but then he has some really smartass comments to say here and there."

As laid back as the Flames starter appears to be, he admits to being very excited for the start of a new season.

The fact it begins at the Saddledome tomorrow is a bonus. Surprise, the quiet Kiprusoff actually likes it loud.

"It's nice to start at home," said Kiprusoff, enjoying some down time in his Saddledome stall while keeping his eye on an obscenely large group of media members flocked around another player.

"It's Calgary, so you know it's going to be loud. That's what you miss. It's a long summer. It's a great feeling when it's loud and they're all ready to go and pumped up."


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