Goalies are longtime friends

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

CALGARY -- Miikka Kiprusoff actually laughed yesterday. Someone call the Ripley's Believe It Or Not people.

It has been less than 24 hours since his Calgary Flames were drubbed 6-1 at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks and the normally stone-faced goalie is standing outside the dressing room, sporting his usual no-nonsense look as he fulfils his daily obligations with the media at the Saddledome.

This is Miikka Kiprusoff at his best. Or worst. It's hard to tell. The Flames goalie just doesn't show many emotions, whether he is frustrating shooters during games or delivering dry quotes to reporters afterward.

Only this time it is different.

The subject de jour is his fellow Finn and good friend Vesa Toskala, whose Maple Leafs will make a rare visit here to take on Kiprusoff's Calgary Flames tonight.

Toskala, for the record, considers himself a real fashion plate, an avid shopper who feels he dresses with style.

Keeping that in mind, we press Kiprusoff with the following question: Who has a better eye for the hippest duds, you or Toskala?

"I thought his wife is buying his clothes for him," Kiprusoff reveals, mischievously grinning from ear to ear.

Stop the presses. Toskala has been busted. Kiprusoff has spilled the beans.

Admit it, Mr. Toskala: Your wife Marjo dresses you, doesn't she?

We still can hear Kiprusoff chuckling now over his little playful joke at Toskala's expense.

This is a humorous side of Kiprusoff -- much like Toskala, for that matter -- that the public rarely witnesses.

But when it comes to their friendship, one that dates back to their childhood days in Finland, there is no hiding the camaraderie these two world-class goalies share.

As a boy growing up in his native town of Turku, Kiprusoff first got word of some goalie who was wowing coaches and parents alike in the community of Tampere, about 160 kilometres away.

The kid's name? Vesa Toskala.

"We've known each other a long time," Kiprusoff said. "I knew of him even when I was very young. He was one of the top goalies in Finland. Even though we didn't live in the same town, you always played those teams.

"We played on the junior national team together too."

The relationship would not end there.

At the 1995 entry draft in Edmonton, Kiprusoff, waiting to be selected himself, was thrilled when Toskala was picked 90th overall by the San Jose Sharks.

Twenty-six picks later, Kiprusoff was plucked 116th.

By those same Sharks.

Small world.

Said Kiprusoff: "It's true. I was in Edmonton at the draft when I heard the Sharks had drafted me. I said: 'Wow, they just took Vesa one round earlier. This should be fun.'

"Then we played together (in the minors) in Kentucky (for) almost a full year. We had good times there. It was fun to play with him."

But the fun would not last. The presence of a third goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, eventually would send both Kiprusoff and Toskala packing.

In 2003, faced with a logjam in goal, the Sharks shipped Kiprusoff to the Flames, where he led Calgary to a berth in the Stanley Cup final.

Four years later, Toskala was traded to the Leafs at the 2007 draft, thereby clearing the way for Nabokov to be the clear-cut No. 1 guy for the teal-clad Sharks.

Said Kiprusoff: "Vesa deserves this chance to be an (NHL starter). In San Jose, he was ready to do it but he played a long time in the minors. He worked hard. I pretty much went through the same thing so I know what he is going through.

"(Tonight) will be interesting. I've seen him on TV. I like watching goalies I know and my buddies from Finland."

Both goalies are having lukewarm seasons. Toskala's goals-against average this season is 3.08 while Kiprusoff is at 3.33.

But that hasn't stopped them from having fun.

Sometimes at the media's expense.

When Toskala was asked yesterday if he and Kiprusoff were chums, the Leafs goalie replied: "No, I don't know him at all."

Toskala immediately admitted he was kidding.

Oh, those crazy Finnish goalies.

Maybe after their playing days are over, the Vesa And Kipper Show will be the headliner at Yuk Yuks in downtown Helsinki.

Just don't expect to see them laughing out on the ice tonight.

At least not in public anyway.


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