Mike nets Finnished business

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

With one trip, Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan dispelled a few myths.

For one thing, he proved goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff was, in fact, possible to reach in the NHL off-season.

More importantly for the Flames, Keenan also showed the perceived rift between himself and his star netminder after the controversial yank in the final game of their first-round playoff exit was blown out of proportion.

"It wasn't an issue," Keenan said. "It wasn't even a topic of discussion."

Visibly upset -- with himself, his team and likely his coach's decision -- after being pulled late in the second period of Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks last spring, Kiprusoff bolted from Calgary without talking to the media frothing over a juicy feud angle.

He didn't leave town, however, before talking to Iron Mike.

"I told Miikka when we had exit meetings that I was going to come visit him," recalled Keenan yesterday after rookie camp opened with fitness testing at the Saddledome.

"He joked, 'You'll never find me.' I said, 'Oh, I'll find you.'

"So he's not that isolated."

It was Kiprusoff, the soft-spoken and often poker-faced Finn, who reached out to his coach for the summer visit.

"He asked me to participate in a charity game as a guest coach," said Keenan, who was behind the bench as Team Finland and Team Sweden faced off in a high-profile game that raised $150,000 for a hospital in Turku.

Along with new Flames director of goaltender development Jamie McLennan, Keenan got to see first-hand what few people normally view -- Kiprusoff's summer home.

"He's in a nice community. He definitely isn't a hermit," Keenan said with a grin.

"He has some neighbours, but they've got a secluded area in a beautiful spot in Finland on the Baltic Sea.

"We had the pleasure of being entertained Finnish style with the hot sauna and then the plunge into the Baltic Sea right after, so that was a lot of fun."

Fun and Kiprusoff and Keenan in the same setting? Doesn't sound like the headlines from their first season together.

"It's a little bit of a myth about my relationships with goalies. I've probably had a strong relationship with goalies compared with other coaches," said Keenan, who has seen three of his pipe protectors win the Vezina with him behind their bench.

"They always play a lot more than anyone else. That's the bottom line -- they want to play. I play them a lot."

Not much will change this year. Kiprusoff will start a lot of games.

Kiprusoff will likely be pulled from more than a few of them.

"It's not anything it's perceived to be most often by media speculation," Keenan said.


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