February 3, 2010
Welcome to the jungleAfter years of playing hockey in the land of Mickey Mouse, Giguere's new reality is hoards of media and hockey-crazed fans, but according to him, it's all good
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Reality finally sinks in for J-S Giguere when he looks at the gaggle of reporters scrunched around his locker on Tuesday night.
No longer is he in sunny Anaheim, the land of Mickey Mouse.
He now is a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team many critics have accused of being Mickey Mouse.
J-S Giguere plans on changing that image. Not by himself, mind you. He needs help.
"I've seen this many media members before during my two visits to the Stanley Cup final," a grinning Giguere said.
Only this isn't the Stanley Cup final.
This is a Tuesday game against the New Jersey Devils. In February.
"There is that," he laughs.
Giguere has just finished making his Leafs debut. It couldn't have gone any better. He has blanked the Devils 3-0, joining Ed Belfour (2002) as the only goalie in franchise history to post a shutout in his first Maple Leafs start.
When the horn goes, he is mobbed. Moments later he is named the game's first star. So out he comes, stepping on to the ice and saluting the fans at the Air Canada Centre who are going wild.
Maybe he doesn't play just an hour's drive from the Hollywood Hills anymore. But come on, isn't this special night something right out of a Hollywood script?
"Actually, with everything that has gone on the past few days and all the things I've had to do, I didn't really feel that comfortable out there," he admits.
Really? In that case, what happens when he actually feels good?
To be fair, Giguere, 32, has been on a whirlwind ride since Sunday, one that saw his hockey address change from Anaheim's Disneyland to Toronto's Winter Wonderland.
Decked out in full equipment, Giguere had been on the team bus going to a practice rink in Florida on Sunday, where his Ducks were preparing to meet the Panthers Monday. When he got off the bus, he was informed that he'd been traded to the Leafs.
Giguere quickly caught a flight to Buffalo, where Leafs officials were waiting to drive him to Toronto. Imagine how he was caught off-guard when he got off the plane and saw a camera crew waiting for him there.
"I was kind of surprised at the Buffalo airport," Giguere said. "I thought it was Buffalo, not Toronto."
Lesson No. 1: Leafs Nation extends beyond the border of the Greater Toronto Area. He'll learn that.
After practising with his new team Monday, Giguere left his hotel Tuesday afternoon en route to the Air Canada Centre and was greeted by icy winds and snow flurries.
"Not quite the sunshine I was accustomed to when I went to the rink in Anaheim," he laughs.
Lesson No. 2: Longjohns are as much a part of your equipment during a Toronto winter as a mask and pads.
Once inside the ACC, he is greeted warmly by the crowd when he steps on to the ice for pre-game warmup. While he is wearing his familiar No. 35, that Anaheim Ducks mask on his head, well, that's gotta go.
"I guess I'll need a new one," he chuckles.
Once the game starts, he is flawless. The Devils best chance comes in the second period when they hit the post. The puck is lying in the crease when rookie Christian Hanson scoops it out of harms way.
Afterward, it is suggested to Giguere that he might want to buy Hanson something in appreciation for his heroics.
"Good idea," Giguere said.
Not every night will be this successful. Few in Leafland have been in recent times. Yes, he has just recorded his 33rd career shutout, but who knows when No. 34 will come?
No matter. For the time being, Giguere will take life one day at a time, as cliche as that might sound. His family will come to Toronto after the Olympic break.
In the meantime, he can bask in the spotlight of being a hero for this one special night.
A February night against the New Jersey Devils.
Lesson No. 3: He's not in Anaheim anymore. And that's not a bad thing.