September 13, 2013

Remembering Guy Hebert

It may be hard to believe, but the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Anaheim Ducks have been in the National Hockey League for 20 years now. 

Yes, even hockey's new teams are building storied histories in their own right. And of course the Ducks top the list with a Stanley Cup championship.

Goaltender Viktor Fasth is celebrating the 20th anniversary by having his mask painted nearly identical to the mask worn by Guy Hebert, the Mighty Ducks goaltender back in 1993:

There are not too many people who come from upper New York state and attend little known NCAA Division II school Hamilton College who go on to become big game goalies in the NHL. In fact I can name just one - Guy Hebert.

Guy Hebert, pronounced the French way despite his American birthplace, was drafted by St. Louis 159th overall in 1987. After completing his college career in 1989 he apprenticed with three seasons with the Blues farm affiliate in Peoria. By 1992 he had made the big leagues, playing 24 solid games behind star netminder Curtis Joseph.

At the conclusion of the 1993 playoffs the NHL welcomed the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Florida Panthers into the NHL. Hebert was left unprotected by the Blues in the expansion draft, and he was quickly plucked by the Ducks.

Hebert did not mind in the least. All he wanted as a chance to play, something that would never happen in St. Louis with Joseph starring as one of the league's best goalies. Hebert certainly made the most of his opportunity, immediately giving Anaheim a genuine measure of respectability in goal. He would continue to do exactly that for the better part of the decade.

Hebert was very good at stopping pucks, squaring up to the shooter and deadening any rebounds. Hebert really worked on perfecting his angles, because it was obvious he grew up playing as reflex goalie. This made him a bid of hybrid between the reflex goalies and square up goalies. While the butterfly stance and making yourself look big were the new norms of goaltending, Hebert always knew he could rely on his quick hands and feet. His only real weakness was his inability to stickhandle the puck. He would rarely wander from his net to help out his defensemen, allowing the opposition to set up a dump and chase strategy.

If I had to describe Guy Hebert in just one word, it would have to be consistent. Thanks to his great attitude and work ethic and unbreakable concentration, year after year he kept the young Ducks in games and rarely suffered long lapses. Often playing on an expansion team can really wear mentally on a goalie, but Hebert showed no such signs in seve years in Anaheim.

Ultimately Guy Hebert was the perfect choice for the Ducks expansion years. He was a great teammate and a leader in the dressing room. His attitude and work ethic were contagious. Most importantly he gave the Ducks chances to win games by being a very competent goalie.

Ultimately though, he was not the goalie who would be able to take the Ducks to the next level. He was replaced with the arrival of the man who would - Jean Sebastien Giguere.

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