The 11th pick in 1995 by Dallas, Iginla was shipped to Calgary after just five months and no games played for Joe Nieuwendyk. He became the face of the franchise and beloved member of the community. Well respected across the league, Iginla's run as a Flame came to an end almost 18 years later in March of 2013 when he was shipped to the Penguins for the playoffs. This past offseason, he decided to sign with Boston for what may be his last stop for a run at the Cup. Some criticized the Flames for holding onto Iginla as long as they did, saying they missed the boat on getting a substantial return for their leader before the bottom really fell out on the franchise. The Flames were sellers and in dire need of value, but with Iginla being a pending UFA no team was willing to give a lot for the Captain. Calgary eventually settled for two prospects and a first rounder from Pittsburgh...or was it Boston? Boy, I'd love to know what the Bruins package was. It's easy to say the Flames held on too long to such a valuable piece when the organization couldn't turn it around. What could they have gotten for Iginla with two or three years left on his deal? It's a moot point - one that doesn't really need to be drawn out. This I will say though: I don't blame the Flames for holding onto him as long as they did. During those years Iginla never went public saying he wanted out. The thing with Calgary and Jarome is that he was more than a great hockey player. He was more than their Captain. He was a part of that city. They loved him and he loved them. They were together for 18 years, how could their not be a mutual respect? Moving him would be like Detroit moving Steve Yzerman or Colorado trading Joe Sakic. The only difference is that Iginla never raised the Cup in Alberta.
Now 36, Iginla is still averaging .81 points per game, just below his career rate of .89. It's incredible that he has found a way to stay this productive up to and including this point of his career. What's special about Iginla is that he brings a lot more than goals and points. He's also a +34, good for third in the league and has 47 penalty minutes. Of those 47 PIMS, 25 are from fights. That's right, the 36 year old has been in five fights this year and they weren't against any lightweights. He's taken on Radko Gudas (twice), David Clarkson, Ryan Kesler and Zac Rinaldo. His leadershihp has taken some of the onus off of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron and he has added a veteran presence that is invaluable this time of year. The fact he has actually ramped up his play of late shows how well the 17 season veteran takes care of himself and what great condition he's in.
Iginla is the ultimate professional: Always ready to play, lays it on the line every shift, a great teammate and an even better person. Did you know he donates $2,000 for every goal that he scores to Kidsport Canada which raises funds for underprivileged youngsters and their families so they can get equipment and register for sports? That's a hefty donation over the years.
Again, this is a reminder. It's a reminder to grab a seat on the couch or buy a couple of tickets the next time Boston is in town to see one of the games greatest players. If you have a youngster who plays the game or if you are trying to fine tune your own game then take the time to see how he moves around the ice and finds the open areas. Don't forget he can dish the puck as well as he's racked up over 600 assists in his career. Iggy does it all. Enjoy this future Hall of Famer while you can.