Craig Petter | April 30th, 2020
“Iginla- Crosby- Scores!”
Hints of both irony and tragedy tint the moment where Jarome Iginla engraved his name on the slab of Olympic hockey history in 2010. First, as the most gifted goal-scorer of his generation, Iginla ironically helped seal Canada’s gold-medal victory with an assist instead of potting the puck himself. Plus, in rather a heartbreaking retrospect, the longstanding Calgary Flames captain experienced the greatest triumph of his career while wearing a different shade of red. Although he never hoisted the Stanley Cup himself, Jarome Iginla enjoyed a lengthy spell of both NHL and international superstardom that deserves a second glance.
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Drafted: 1995, Round 1, #11 overall, Dallas Stars
NHL Tenure: Calgary Flames-16 seasons, 1996-2013 / Pittsburgh Penguins-1 season, 2013 / Boston Bruins-1 season, 2013-2014 / Colorado Avalanche-3 seasons, 2014-2017 / Los Angeles Kings-1 season, 2017
NHL All-Star Appearances: 6
Top NHL Scorer (Art Ross Trophy): 2001-2002
Top NHL Goal Scorer (Rocket Richard Trophy): 2001-2002, 2003-2004
Most Outstanding NHL Player (Ted Lindsay Award): 2001-2002
Balancing artful finish with fearless grit, Jarome Iginla was perhaps the last great power forward in professional hockey. He pummeled opponents both on the scoresheet and in the corners, a natural goal scorer who still tossed the gloves whenever deemed fit. Unlike the pests that populate the league today, Iginla rarely resorted to chirps or slashes to get the better of the opposition. Instead, he simply steamrolled whoever had the puck. Iginla would then proceed to launch his signature laser beam wrist shots past poor blinking goalies. Picture Gordie Howe with tamer elbows but an especially lethal right slot release.
Iginla blossomed as an elite hockey talent during his teenage years. As a 15-year-old playing Midget AAA in St. Albert, Alberta, he notched 87 points to lead the entire league in scoring; the city recently renamed the team’s home rink in his honor. Iginla then excelled while playing junior for the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL, winning two consecutive Memorial Cup championships alongside fellow future NHL captain Shane Doan. Adding more medals to a stiffly accomplished neck, he snagged gold with Team Canada at the 1996 World Junior Championships, earning Best Forward honors too.
Although originally drafted by the Dallas Stars, Iginla never sniffed a single whiff of Texas air before they shipped him to the Calgary Flames. Staff members in Calgary anticipated greatness from the young right-winger; after a few lukewarm seasons, he delivered. Iginla first crossed the 30-goal threshold during the 2000-2001 campaign, where he led the Flames with 71 points.
An established power forward, Iginla then erupted the next season as a premier NHL scorer. He collected 52 goals and 96 points to lead the league in both categories and also won the Lester B. Pearson Award (since renamed Ted Lindsay) as the most outstanding player according to his peers. Pundits predicted that he would win the Hart Trophy as league MVP too, but he narrowly lost out to Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore. Most hockey minds outside of Quebec were decidedly miffed by the result, but Flames fans wept.
One Miraculous Cup Run
Iginla successfully translated his personal success to the entire Calgary Flames squad in the 2003-2004 season, his first as team captain. Regular season play witnessed Iginla post 41 goals, tying for his second Rocket Richard trophy with Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk. His leadership lifted the Flames to sixth in the Western Conference come the postseason, leading them to an unlikely trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. While unflinching excellence from Miikka Kiprusoff in net and the seemingly divine luck of overtime specialist Martin Gelinas helped carry the run, Iginla shone in the playoffs. He scored more goals than any other player throughout the playoffs. In particular, he dominated the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Highlights included a legendary fight against Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier in game three, plus a marathon shift in overtime in game five where Iginla lost his helmet, regained the puck, and assisted on the game-winning goal. Despite his efforts, Iginla ultimately sat despondently in the dressing room after their devastating game seven loss. At the moment, he called it an “indescribable sting.”
Success on the Global Stage
Iginla never reached another Stanley Cup Finals after 2004. He did manage to reel in some professional hardware as a steady presence on Team Canada. As a late invite to the Team Canada summer camp before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Iginla demolished expectations. In the gold medal game, the previously unheralded right-winger posted two goals to cement the country’s first Olympic victory in 50 years. Iginla then sported an alternate captain patch on his sweater for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, where Canada won gold, and the 2006 Olympics. Home ice advantage only enhanced his play at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Iginla tallied a tournament-leading five goals and recorded that one fateful assist.
Tearful Departures and Retirement
After nearly seventeen seasons as a Flame, Iginla rode the rails of a trade south to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 27, 2013. The single lingering vestige from the 2004 team, Iginla left Calgary as the greatest and most beloved athlete the city ever saw. He sweated through more games, netted more goals, and celebrated more points than any Flame before him. Chances are, nobody will ever challenge those records either.
Upon bidding Calgary a sorrowful goodbye, Iginla bounced between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. Although his production dwindled over time, he remained effective and notably sniped another 30 goals in his single season as a Bruin. Iginla officially retired in the summer of 2018. He played 1,554 games and had colossal outputs of 625 goals and 1,300 points.
He ranks 16th amongst all NHL players ever in goals scored. An upcoming Hockey Hall of Fame berth for Jarome Iginla is inevitable. After all, the name of every eligible player rated ahead of him resides there. Plus, only six other notorious names ever affixed themselves to 11 consecutive 30-goal seasons like he did. The Stanley Cup may have eluded his hands, but Iginla still grasped his share of gold medals and etched his name into scores of record books. The pinnacle of his position and the face of a franchise, Jarome Iginla now towers in retirement as a hallmark of hockey history too.
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