By Adam Brady
It was a mostly stellar season with a crushing ending for John Gibson, but the unruffled young Ducks goalie isn’t the type to dwell on such things.
The 20-year-old Gibson was outstanding for most of the season with Norfolk of the AHL, as well as in a handful of games with the Ducks. That included his playoff debut in Game 4 of an intense series with a Kings, in which Gibson had a 28-save shutout, and a 39-stop performance in a Game 5 victory. But Gibson suffered his first defeat in a tight Game 6 in LA, then gave up four goals on 18 shots in a devastating Game 7 at Honda Center.
But rather than let that loss stay with him, Gibson’s focus is almost entirely on next season, one that could hand him a golden opportunity to shine at the NHL level for a full season for the first time. Anaheim’s decision to let Jonas Hiller go via free agency will likely mean the franchise turns toward Gibson and fellow netminder Frederik Andersen in net starting in the fall.
Meanwhile, the notoriously understated Gibson will do his work next season in an ironically flashy goalie mask, courtesy of famed mask painter David Gunnarsson. The Swedish artist, who also designed Andersen’s Lego Movie-inspired mask for next season, has come up with a brilliant design for Gibson’s that incorporates a Pac-Man theme throughout and even includes hologrammed Ducks logos.
Gibson, back home in his native Pittsburgh, talked about that new mask, his summer and what he experienced last season.
How has your summer been so far?
It’s been good. I’m just back in Pittsburgh, working out and enjoying the summer. I haven’t done anything too crazy, just a lot of fishing and golfing. I’m taking a trip down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina later this month. I don’t have a whole lot more planned other than working out, making sure my body is ready for the season, hanging with my family and friends, then heading out to Anaheim to get ready for next season.
How’s your golf game?
It’s not that good. I’m not that great. I’m a better fisherman, but golf’s not too bad. It’s getting better.
When you look back on your season, what are your thoughts?
Obviously it ended a little earlier than I would have liked, but I think I learned a lot. I’ll be ready to go next year, take what I learned, be better and hopefully go further in the playoffs.
Were you ever surprised when your name was called in the playoffs?
I never really knew what to expect. I had a conversation with Bruce when I was sent down during the Dallas series. It was a good conversation, and I knew I always had to be ready.
After the Game 7 loss to LA, were you able to turn the page or did you carry that for a little while?
I think we’ll all use it for motivation for next year. I don’t think we have to worry about in a negative way, but I think we’ll use it as a positive.
What did you learn being at this level during those playoffs?
When you play in the playoffs, it’s the best hockey there is. If you can get an experience like that under your belt, it gives you some confidence that you can play at this level. Obviously the team we lost to are the Stanley Cup champions, so going against that kind of competition in your first year it helps you out and teaches you a lot. Hopefully you can stay there and have success at that level.
Things have changed a bit with the team letting Jonas Hiller go. What have you been told about your role next season?
We’ve had some good conversations, but obviously nothing is ever set in stone. I just want to come into training camp and play my game and hopefully have a good season.
Let’s talk about the Pac-Man mask. Where did that come from?
To be honest, it was all the designer, Dave. I told him to come up with a cool design. He said he had a couple, and that was the first one he sent me, so I said that was good. It’s all him. I’m usually pretty standard, and I don’t care much about my pads or my helmet, but when it comes to working with him, I know anything he gives me is going to be unbelievable. You see the work he does, and I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m just happy to be able to work with him.
Were you much of a Pac-Man player when you were younger?
I think I played it here and there when I was younger. I played a lot of other games, but I definitely played Pac-Man.
Did you have much input on the design?
Not really. The only thing I told him that I put on every mask is my number at the bottom and something that represents Pittsburgh in the back. I’ve used the skyline of the city for the past five years or so. Other than that, I let him do what he wants, and I think it turned out great.
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