Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Best Flame Ever: Appreciating Iggy in 12 Words

Embed from Getty Images


J - Jocose

While fans are most familiar with that steely intensity Jarome Iginla displayed on the ice, he was easy-going off the ice and always a willing participant in dressing room banter. Evidence of this playful side was on display on Monday — self-deprecating humour, trading chirps with longtime pal Craig Conroy, having a little fun at the expense of his three kids — one of whom was caught yawning during his speech. Asked what retirement looked like, Iginla said he looked forward to playing a few games of Fortnite with his kids, but “in moderation” he interjected with deadpan seriousness.

A - Accomplished

The list of achievements is ridiculously long: 20 NHL seasons, 1,554 games (13th all-time), 625 goals (15th all-time), 1,300 points (34th all-time), 101 game-winning goals (9th all-time), three-time Olympian while winning gold twice, two-time winner of the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy, winner of the Art Ross, 12-time 30-goal scorer, four times notching 40, twice reaching 50. One of only eight players to score 30-or-more goals in 11 consecutive seasons. Six all-star game appearances. I could go on all day.

R - Robbed

Despite all the awards Iginla did win, you can’t help but agonize over the hardware he got oh-so-tantalizingly close to, only to be denied. Most notably, especially in these circles, would be the Stanley Cup in 2004. One could (and many do) argue Calgary was a coach's challenge away from defeating Tampa Bay in game 6. Going hand in hand with that might well have been the Conn Smythe for Iginla. But arguably the most egregious of all the injustices is Jose Theodore edging him out for the Hart Trophy in 2001-02, a year Iginla — a literal one-man show — led the league in scoring with 52 goals and 96 points, won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the players’ MVP, only to lose out on the big prize in a tie-breaker with the Montreal Canadiens' goaltender somehow garnering more first place votes.

O - Obliging

You hear the stories all the time and it’s because they’re true. Generous with his time, especially given the demands on him as one of the league’s true superstars, Iginla would frequently hang back to sign autographs for kids — regularly being the last player to get on the team bus. As captain, that role comes with expectations when it comes to dealing with the pesky media and he always fulfilled those duties with grace and without a hint of attitude, regardless if the team just suffered a heartbreaking and/or gut-wrenching loss.

M - Modest

You heard it on Monday. Iginla would have been content to just write out a couple paragraphs of thanks in a press release and step away from the game. The pomp and circumstance of what was an excellent retirement press conference — both necessary and deserved — was certainly not at his insistence. Meanwhile, in reflecting on his career, you heard about big moments in which he led you to believe he was merely along for the ride. Recounting the memorable 2004 Stanley Cup run, he talked more about the big goals scored by Martin Gelinas and there was zero mention of ‘The Shift’ and his epic involvement in Oleg Saprykin’s OT winner against the Lightning in game 5 that put Calgary ahead 3-2. He referenced the 2010 gold medal game, but talked more about the atmosphere in Vancouver and only in passing mentioned Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, not noting at all the fact that it doesn’t happen if not for his perfect pass.

E - Extraordinary

Making everything Iginla accomplished that much more improbable and remarkable is the reality that in 16 years in Calgary, he never had a true No. 1 centre alongside him. Conroy stumbled upon that gig, first getting elevated into that role (from merely being “another checker”) when Marc Savard got injured. While those two quickly became fast friends and enjoyed the most success of any of the C-RW combos, that No. 1 centre job was always a missing piece. Iginla did what he could playing with the likes of Daymond Langkow, Olli Jokinen, German Titov, Mike Cammalleri, Andrew Cassels... heck, even Jeff Shantz was his centre one season, but it does leave you wondering what might have been.



I - Intense

What a fiery competitor. Year after year, he put the team on his back and did all he could to will them to success. As we heard on Monday, game nights began with that towel draped over his head in the dressing room, the captain getting into game mode. When the puck dropped, the more pissed off he got, the better he played. Don’t poke the bear was the best advice for the opposition. Iginla finished with an astounding 76 NHL fights, 59 of them with Calgary. Derian Hatcher, Vincent LeCavalier, Jamie Benn, Denny Lambert (think 2001 Flames-Ducks brawl) and Francois Beauchemin were among the more memorable tussles. While a good fighter, Iginla didn’t always win, but he was always willing -- nobody had to fight his battles. And that trademark smile he’d flash afterwards, sometimes accompanied by blood running down his cheek, it was obvious he loved that aspect of the game.

G - Generous

Lost among the higher-profile hardware Iginla won, or nearly won, was the fact he was named the recipient of the NHL Foundation Award in 2004, awarded to the player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community. Mark Giordano won that same award in 2016 and Travis Hamonic won it in 2017. We’re very familiar with both of their well-documented efforts in the community, but you forget how generous with his time Iginla was back in his heyday when there was less coverage of these things. Iginla also won the King Clancy Memorial Award for exemplifying leadership qualities on and off the ice. The Ted Lindsay Award for leadership is also on his mantel. Is there a better story than what unfolded at the Winter Olympics in 2002. At a restaurant with his family, Iginla was introduced to four young fans from Calgary, who had driven to Salt Lake City to cheer on Canada. When he learned they were staying in their car as they didn’t have a hotel room, he put them up at the Marriott where his own family was staying, and on his own dime, of course. Sensational.

I - Intimidating

Iginla was the consummate power forward. He could drop the gloves, he could lay a body check, he could make plays and he could shoot. Man, could he ever shoot. It’s why he lit the lamp 662 times including playoffs and will go down as one of the most prolific scorers in NHL history. That whole package made him as formidable of an opponent as you could find and he would cause other teams fits. How often did we see this play in his prime where like a paving truck, he would get the puck along the sideboards and curl out, bowling his way to the front of the net and through anyone standing in his way. An absolute force. There was no stopping him.

N - Natural

He may not have looked like a natural that first hockey tryout, when as he told the story on Monday, his grandpa brought him to the rink in St. Albert and he went out on the ice with all the other experienced kids — without a jersey and without socks. He did not realize he had to bring both. But the natural talent within him came out quickly. Dominant in the WHL in a prestigious career with the Kamloops Blazers. Had an impactful World Juniors in 1996 (5 goals and 12 points in 6 games) in leading Canada to a gold medal. He was a high first round pick that cost Calgary an all-star named Joe Nieuwendyk in order to pry him away from Dallas. Had an assist in his first NHL game after just flying into town after his WHL season ended. Then he scored his first goal in the next game. The rest is history.

L - Legend

There’s no better way to describe him. Known simply as ”Iggy”, what more can you say about his hall-of-fame career. He was the face of the Flames franchise for a decade and a half and is easily Calgary’s greatest player of all time. And his impact reached well beyond southern Alberta. One of the most iconic moments in Canadian hockey history involved Iginla in 2010 when he got the puck along the sideboards and to Crosby's plea heard around the world of “Iggy”, Iginla fed him the puck and Crosby fired a quick shot through Ryan Miller’s pads for the overtime winner that gave Canada Olympic gold over Team U.S.A. Next, it will be time for the No. 12 jersey to be raised to the rafters of the Saddledome, slotted between Lanny McDonald’s No. 9 and Mike Vernon’s No. 30. That's how you pay tribute to a legend.

A - Ageless

He played in the NHL until he was 40. In a league that keeps getting younger and younger, that is one heck of a run and if not for being slowed by a bad hip, he could still be going as he looks in great shape. Most impressively is his consistency. He scored an impressive 301 goals after his 30th birthday. That is insane. Strip out the 21 goals he scored at age 19 and that nearly matches the 303 goals Iginla scored in his 20s. Heck, if you only counted his goals scored in his 30s, Iginla would still rank in the top 200 NHL goal scorers of all-time.

Thanks for the memories.






By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Do so now! It's another way to be alerted to new stories I've written, other articles from my colleagues that I've enjoyed and I'll occasionally use that space to chime in on the news of the day.

-----------------------------------------------

Recent Flames Reading:

  • State of the 2018-19 Roster: Flames Tracking to Squeeze in Under the $79.5M Cap - With two players still unsigned, most notably Noah Hanifin, I take a comprehensive look at what the club's season-opening roster could look like to see if they can fit everybody in. (July 28, 2018)
  • Jankowski Agrees to Two-Year Deal That Works Great for Both Sides - Mark Jankowski has been a good soldier ever since Calgary drafted him in 2012 and the two-year deal he recently signed is yet another example. (July 26, 2018)
  • Enough: Treliving Finally Repairs Hole in Line-up that has Existed for Seven Years - Not since Craig Conroy have the Flames had a right-shot centre in their top nine and the lack of that cost them last season. Well, that won't be an issue any longer. (July 13, 2018)
  • Trying to Crack the A Team: Don't Pity the Foo - Since Spencer Foo signed with the Flames just a over a year ago, right wing has suddenly become a crowd scene. However, he remains unfazed, confident that he can make the team and be a difference maker. (July 10, 2018) 
  • Flames Get Younger and Different in Blockbuster Trade with Carolina - In a blockbuster deal at the draft, Calgary traded fan favourites Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox. While the return were names that are less familiar , they're both solid. (June 24, 2018)

2 comments:

  1. Best retirement articale yet.... you nailed it! Great read, made my night and made me smile!

    ReplyDelete