Here’s the skinny on former Calgary Flame’s forward Jarome Iginla. He was a great hockey player and a class act. Tomorrow he will be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I More Know Of Iginla Than Know Him
I have to admit that although we’ve been together in different places, I’ve never spoken to Iginla. But, for me, his story is the story of a local boy who makes good.
Like Grant Fuhr before him, Iginla grew up just west of Edmonton where I taught at the University of Alberta for more than 40 years. In fact, I had friends who knew him well and thought he was one of the really good guys – because he treated his grandmother (who was a piano teacher) so well.
Interestingly, it was Jarome’s grandfather Rick Schuchard who introduced him to sports and encouraged him to become an athlete. Every year, he took his grandson to a baseball tournament in Lacombe and Jarome really enjoyed it.
Baseball was his first love. In fact, perhaps Jarome’s first sports “contract” paid him 50 cents for every ball he shagged during that tournament.
Also at the tournament, young Jarome also met one of his heroes and his favorite player – Grant Fuhr – who was a goalie. And for the longest time, Iginla played in goal. Iginla was drawn to Fuhr because of his African heritage. Surprisingly, Iginla was also a huge Oilers fan, particularly during the Oilers glory years.
Eventually, Iginla found out that he had a penchant for putting the puck into the net and switched from goalie to forward. The word is that he wasn’t a good skater, which was a skill he had to work on. He obviously succeeded.
Obviously, his hockey career all came together for him. Drafted by the Dallas Stars, Iginla was traded to the Calgary Flames before he ever played a game with Dallas. And, the rest is history. And that history will be celebrated even further with Iginla’s enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Why Iginla Is a Lock for Hall of Fame Enshrinement
There’s no question in my mind. Iginla will be formally named to the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow. Although Wednesday’s deliberation will be virtual, I’m thinking it won’t take much time.
The soon-to-be 43-year-old Iginla ended his NHL career with 1,300 points exactly, scoring 625 goals and 675 assists. He was the NHL’s dominant power forward for more than a decade. He scored 50 goals for two seasons, and for five seasons he was more than a-point-a-game player. Even more important, he was the heart and soul of the Flames for many seasons.
In a post today by TSN’s Senior Writer Frank Seravalli, he tells the story of one of Iginla’s most memorable moments in hockey. It was during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and perhaps was one of the most famous goals in hockey history when his assist to Sidney Crosby was the “Golden Goal” in those games. As Seravalli noted in his article, “The sound of Sidney Crosby shouting “Iggy!” is seared on the brain of anyone who watched.”
Iginla also scored two goals in the gold-medal game at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which helped Canada beat the United States 5-2 to win the country’s first men’s Olympic hockey gold in 50 years.
As Craig Button noted, what set Iginla apart from other good hockey players was his attitude of “Any way you want to play.”
As Button noted, “There was no area of the game where he couldn’t make an impact. And facing the biggest challenges, like cream, he always rose to the top.”
Iginla’s Won Some Awards During His Career
Over the seasons, Iginla won a number of NHL awards. Perhaps the most prestigious for a hockey player – I would guess – is the respect of his or her peers. That’s way Iginla’s being named as the winner of the Ted Lindsay Award as MVP in 2001-02 might be the most special.
He also won the Art Ross Trophy that same 2001-02 season as NHL’s leading point producer, two Rocket Richard trophies as leading goal scorer (2001-02 and 2003-04), and three first-team All-Star selections at right-wing. About the only thing Iginla didn’t win was a Stanley Cup and the Hart Trophy.
As well, off the ice, Iginla’s leadership made him a different kind of player and person. He won both the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for humanitarian contribution and the Mark Messier Leadership Award for on-ice leadership, motivation of team members, and dedication to charitable causes.
He’s Remembered Well By Friend Jamie McLennan
Former Flames goalie and now TSN announcer Jamie McLennan remains one of Iginla’s closest friends. McLennan noted about his friend, “The thing about Iggy is that his outlook is always the most positive outlook.”
McLennan remembers a time when Iginla hadn’t scored in more than eight games. The newspaper headlines were merciless asking rhetorical questions like: ‘What’s Wrong With Iggy?’ or ‘Should the Flames trade Iggy?’
But Iginla wouldn’t bite or fold. As McLennan noted, “You’d see him at the rink and ask him about it. He would say, ‘You wait until I start scoring, it’s going to be unreal.’ He embraced every challenge.”
McLennan also lauds Iginla for his generous spirit and for refusing to have his name attached to good deeds. He recalled one story about Iginla running into four young guys from Calgary at a restaurant in Salt Lake City who had – on a whim – driven to Utah without a hotel room or tickets but wanted to see Team Canada play. They were planning to sleep in their car.
They didn’t ask Iginla for anything other than a photo with him. Iginla wished them ‘good luck’ and ‘be well’ and then left after casually asking for their phone number.
As McLennan tells it, “They later got a phone call saying that Iggy had arranged a hotel room for them and tickets, in the middle of the Olympics. He didn’t want them to tell anybody, but they couldn’t help not sharing the story.”
A Final Analysis?
Finally, McLennan’s final analysis is that “You realize pretty quickly how special he is. He is very thoughtful, level-headed – and he thinks ‘How dare someone act a certain way?’ He pays attention. I think that’s rubbed off on all of us as friends. He really is the gold standard.”
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