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No Matter How You Say The Name...this Guy Can Play

But Despite Success, Hebert Remains Mystery Man Around NHL

April 11, 1999|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The name should be a dead giveaway.

Guy Hebert just sounds French-Canadian. He could be from Montreal. Or maybe Quebec City. He must be another of those Quebecois goaltenders playing so well in the NHL, that's for sure.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Hebert is a regular guy from Troy, N.Y., who has settled comfortably into the good life in Orange County. He happens to be the only one on his block who tends goal for the Mighty Ducks.

He also is wealthier than his neighbors after signing a $12-million contract extension Feb. 4 that makes him one of the league's highest-paid goalies.

As if that weren't enough, Hebert also has the Ducks in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in their six-season history. Although Anaheim has struggled in April with a 1-3-1 record, the Ducks need three victories in their final four regular-season games to post the best record in their existence.

Indeed, Hebert's sixth season with the Ducks has turned out to be his best.

Hebert set a career high with his 30th win during the playoff-clinching, 4-1 victory April 2 against the New York Rangers. He also has a career-high five shutouts. His current goals-against average of 2.45 and .921 save percentage also will top his previous season bests of 2.67 and .919 set in 1996-97.

What's more, Hebert's career save percentage has improved to .911--the third-best among active goalies behind Buffalo's Dominik Hasek and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.

Hasek was the NHL's most valuable player the last two seasons and Brodeur led the Devils to the 1995 Stanley Cup title.

Hebert lists an all-star appearance in 1996-97, membership on the 1998 U.S. Olympic team and six credible seasons in Anaheim on his resume. But his name remains something of a puzzler outside the Orange Curtain.

And just what is the story on his name anyway?

"My mom calls me Guy," Hebert said, saying his name with an English pronunciation.

"My father calls me Guy," Hebert continued, making his name sound French.

Paul Hebert, an avid hockey fan, noticed the name, "Guy," in a copy of the Hockey News one day while Carole Hebert was pregnant with their second son.

Guy Hebert (say it: Ghee Ay-bear) sounded like a good hockey name back in January 1967. It sounds just as good in 1999, especially to the Ducks.

Around the dressing room, teammates refer to him as Guybo (the Ducks say it Ghee-bo), as in, "Guybo won the game for us tonight."

"I think that's a Joe Sacco creation," Hebert said of the former Duck winger now playing for the New York Islanders.

At the Arrowhead Pond, Duck fans simply bellow, "Gheeeeeeeeee," after every big save, routine save and just about any time Hebert plays the puck.

No one has drawn as many cheers in the franchise's short history. After all, no one has been around as long as Hebert. He's the last of the original Ducks.

Enforcer Stu Grimson was there at the beginning too. But Grimson spent parts of the last four seasons playing for Detroit and Carolina before returning to Anaheim during the off-season.

Despite his distinguished tenure in Anaheim, Hebert tends to be something of a mystery man around the NHL.

When the Ducks put together a conference call in early February, speculation among some Canadian reporters was that captain Paul Kariya had agreed to a contract extension.

Pierre Gauthier, team president/general manager, then announced it was Hebert who had signed a three-year contract extension worth about $12 million and all but a few reporters hung up.

"Underrated," Duck defenseman Kevin Haller said of Hebert. "I can tell you before I came here [with Grimson from Carolina in a trade last August], I didn't know much about Guybo. Unless a goalie is on a Stanley Cup team or if he has a lot of shutouts, you don't know much about him if you play in the other conference."

The Ducks' home games are just starting when Eastern newspapers are putting their sports sections to bed. How many viewers in New York or Montreal or Toronto stay glued to the set to watch Hebert work his magic into the wee hours of the morning?

Ask hockey fans outside the Southland to name a member of the Ducks and they'll mention Kariya and Teemu Selanne right off the bat. But buy 'em a drink if they come up with Hebert's name.

Not that Hebert is complaining, mind you.

It's difficult to imagine a happier player, a happier person than Hebert this season--his sixth with the Ducks after two seasons as Curtis Joseph's seldom-used backup in St. Louis.

To be sure, Selanne sets an almost unbeatable standard for laughter and glibness in the Duck dressing room. But Hebert, through thick and thin, has proved to be about as unflappable as they come.

"Guybo deals with everything in a happy-go-lucky way," Haller said. "He's always relaxed. He's great with the fans. He's not shy to talk. You always see him talking. People like talking to him because he's so easygoing."

Hebert was raised in a sports-crazy household, tagging along with older brother Paul to all manner of neighborhood games as a youngster.

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