Jarome Iginla has had himself one of the best NHL careers of all-time. Falling just shy of winning the Stanley Cup, he’s done virtually everything else he could have ever hoped for in his hockey career. He’s won almost every trophy, medal, and title a hockey player could ask for, and will surely be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Calgary Flames will be retiring Iginla’s jersey during the Flames’ March 2, 2019 game against the Minnesota Wild, the team against which he scored his 500th NHL goal. Now is as appropriate a time as any to revisit some of the best moments of Iginla’s illustrious hockey career.
Iginla before the NHL
All players have to start somewhere. Prior to becoming one of the NHL’s all-time greats, he played minor hockey in his hometown of St. Albert and junior hockey in the Rockies. In every league he played in, he had a knack for scoring.
St. Albert Raiders (Midget AAA)
Iginla’s sports career didn’t begin with hockey though. He actually played baseball, and was pretty good at it, before lacing up his skates at the ripe age of six years. He started his hockey journey as a goalie, taking after his favourite player, Oiler’s legend Grant Fuhr. However, after figuring out how good he was at filling the net with pucks, he switched from goalie to forward and in his first year of midget AAA hockey, he led all Alberta players in scoring.
This was just the start of a long hockey journey as a talented scorer, and it all began as a member of the St. Albert Raiders.
Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The transition to the WHL was a tough one for Iginla, as it is for many players. His first year for the Kamloops Blazers saw him score just seven goals and 23 points. The Blazers won the Memorial Cup that year, but Iginla was not a huge contributor for that year’s team. This wasn’t the case the following year.
In his second WHL season, Iginla took his game to new heights. He scored 33 goals and 71 points, good for fifth in team scoring on a strong Blazers team. Coincidentally, the Blazers’ sixth highest scorer that season was current Flames assistant coach Ryan Hyska. The Blazers went on to win their second consecutive Memorial Cup, this time with Iginla as a key contributor. In 21 playoff games, he scored seven goals and 18 points, en route to winning the George Parsons Trophy as the tournament’s most sportsmanlike player.
After being drafted by Dallas 11th overall in the 1995 draft, he returned to Kamloops and demolished his opposition, putting up a whopping 63 goals in 63 games, coupled with 76 assists and 120 penalty minutes.
Iginla’s NHL career
Iginla never suited up on the Stars’ roster, as he was traded in a mid-season deal to Calgary along with Corey Millen for Joe Nieuwendyk. As an 18-year-old, Iginla made his NHL debut during the Flames’ playoff run. He’d spend the next 16 seasons with Calgary.
It’s impossible to pick just one moment as the greatest for Iginla in a Flaming C. He is, hands down, the best player the franchise has ever had. To this day, he leads the franchise in all time games played, goals, points, power play goals, game winning goals, and shots on goal.
As a member of the Flames, he was a four time NHL all-star, and winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy twice, Art Ross Trophy, and the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Arguably, he should have also won a Hart Trophy too. He gave his heart and soul to the Flames franchise, and it will not be an easy feat to break the records he set.
Outside of the long list of accolades and achievements he celebrated as a member of the Flames, his best moment probably came in the spring of 2004, when Iginla captained the Flames all the way to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
On paper, the Flames barely had any business being in the playoffs that year, but Iginla strapped the whole team onto his back and, along with Miikka Kiprusoff, powered them to the Finals. He led the league in goals during the playoffs with 13, and was the winner of an epic fight against Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier in game three. One of the most iconic moments of that final playoff series was what is now known as “The Shift”. No explanation will adequately describe how amazing it was.
He may not have captured the Cup with the Flames that season, but everyone who was lucky enough to spend a night in the ‘Dome chillin’ with Jarome got to be part of something special.
When Iginla was traded on March 28, 2013 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, it marked a pivotal moment in the history of the franchise. Cutting the cord with their all time leader in almost too many statistical categories to list, the trade signaled a shift from an organization trying to win a Cup for the best player in their history to one rebuilding for the future.
Perhaps his best moment actually came in the first few minutes as a Penguin. On the night he was traded, it was widely speculated and believed that the Flames had traded Iginla to the Boston Bruins. Only until after the trade had been made official was it realized that he was actually a member of the Penguins.
The confusion only added to one of the craziest nights in recent Flames history. At that point, the Flames were firmly outside the playoff picture, and fans instantly rooted for the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup.
Iginla only played 13 regular season games with the Penguins, but put up five goals and 11 points in that span. As fate would have it, the Penguins ultimately lost their conference finals matchup against the Bruins that Spring.
Following his short stint in Pittsburgh, Iginla opted to sign a one-year deal with the Bruins. Boston seemed like a great fit for the aging superstar, and on a team that had gone to the Cup finals the year before, it felt like this was his best chance to win that elusive Stanley Cup.
Iginla was lauded for his scoring prowess throughout his career, and his ability to consistently hit the 30 goal mark was an impressive feat. His season in Boston was the last in which he hit that goal plateau, his 12th consecutive season with at least 30 goals not including the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.
The year prior, when he was traded to the Penguins, the schedule did not have Iginla visiting the Saddledome. His best moment as a Bruin was, without a doubt, his return to the ‘Dome.
Despite not being the Bruins’ captain, he was selected to take the ceremonial faceoff against his successor Mark Giordano prior to the game. From the moment he stepped onto Saddledome ice, every fan in the building was chanting his name. The Flames compiled a beautiful video tribute highlighting Iginla’s best moments as a Flame, and it was followed by a well deserved standing ovation from the crowd. If they had their way, the applause would have lasted hours.
Iginla was selected as the third star of the game and once again, stepped onto the ice to a full house chanting his name. He took not one, but two victory laps around the ‘Dome. It was truly a special night.
After failing to clear enough cap space to re-sign him, Iginla chose to sign a three year contract with the Colorado Avalanche in the summer of 2014, due in part to a successful sales pitch from former teammate Alex Tanguay. Unfortunately, his quest for a Cup in Denver fell short in all three seasons. The team struggled to find their identity, but Iginla remained one of their strongest players, amassing 59 goals and 124 points as a member of the Avalanche.
Iginla hit two incredible milestones will in an Avalanche jersey. On January 4, 2016, Iginla scored his 600th career goal, the 19th player to ever hit that mark. Just under a year later on December 10, 2016, he skated in his 1500th regular season NHL game, becoming the 16th player to reach that milestone. He may not have had a high degree of team success with the Avalanche, but he did celebrate several key career milestones.
Los Angeles Kings
As the Avalanche’s 2016-17 season was went disturbingly worse and worse, Iginla sought out a team looking to make the playoffs and he found familiarity in joining the Los Angeles Kings to be with his former coach Darryl Sutter. He was traded in a deadline deal on March 1, 2017.
Beause Marian Gabork already wore #12 for the Kings, Iginla donned a different number on his jersey for the first time since his rookie year. As a 10 year old, Iginla had purchased a Kings jersey crested with his name and #88 on the back in honour of his childhood hero Wayne Gretzky, who was traded to the Kings in 1988. As a tribute to this moment from his childhood, Iginla chose to wear #88.
Iginla’s best game as a King came against his former team, the Flames. In what would end up being his final game at the Saddledome, Iginla recorded his 11th career Gordie Howe hat trick.
In the first period, Iginla traded punches with Deryk Engelland in a highly spirited tilt. Their bout lasted nearly a full minute before it was broken up, and Iginla was the clear winner. Suffice to say, it might have been Engelland’s most memorable fight.
In the final minute of the second period, Iginla scored an unconventional goal courtesy of his successor as Flames captain. Iginla’s initial shot was going well wide, but a sprawling Mark Giordano swept it right back into the crease and it went off Brian Elliott‘s elbow and in to put the Kings up 2-1.
Up by two goals midway through the third, the Kings looked to seal their victory and Iginla connected with Jeff Carter on a beautiful pass off the rush to give them a three goal lead.
A fight, a goal, and an assist. Iginla did it all in his final appearance in front of the C of Red.
Iginla’s international play
Donning the coveted red Maple Leaf to represent Canada in hockey is one of the biggest honours for many Canadian hockey players. Iginla was fortunate enough to do this at various levels, and was victorious many times.
U20 (World Junior Championship)
In 1996, Team Canada was led to many victories largely due to Iginla’s offensive production. En route to winning gold, Iginla was selected as the tournament’s best forward after leading all players with five goals and 12 points in six games.
Iginla’s 12-point World Junior performance would not be beat by a Canadian until nearly a decade later when Patrice Bergeron scored 13 points in 2005.
On that 1996 team would also be future Calgary Flames teammates Daymond Langkow and Rhett Warrener. It might have been a case of fantastic foreshadowing, but Iginla’s best game was one where he did not actually score a goal in.
Instead, during the gold medal game against Sweden, Iginla would mark two primary assists in setting up Langkow for goals, the second of which was the gold-medal-winning-goal. The pair would also connect again to assist on a Hnat Domenichelli power play goal. The chemistry between Langkow and Iginla would of course be reignited during their time together in Calgary, and what a marvel they were.
2002 Olympic Games
Iginla was not originally included on the 2002 Canadian men’s hockey team. He only joined the team because of an injury to Simon Gagne, which allowed him to suit up for an pre-tournament intra-squad game. He impressed the Hockey Canada brass enough that he was added to the team roster despite Gagne returning to full health.
That year, the Canadians were vying for their first gold medal in the ice hockey Olympic tournament in 50 years, and Iginla was trusted to play a big role on a line with Gagne and superstar Joe Sakic. His best game was the squad’s biggest, the gold medal game. Facing the United States on their home soil, Iginla exploded for two goals and three points en route to a big 5-2 win for Canada.
Iginla was named the third star of the game and became the first black man to win an Olympic gold medal for ice hockey in history. He was the third youngest player on that team, and his gold medal in 2002 was just the first captured by the legend.
2004 World Cup of Hockey
The second iteration of the World Cup of Hockey occurred in the late-of 2004. It wasn’t known at the time that there would be an NHL lockout, which was announced two days after Canada won the World Cup.
In six games during the tournament, Iginla was held scoreless for five. However, he helped the Canadians move past the win-less Slovaks in the quarter final round by putting up two goals and an assist. He was far from Team Canada’s best player of the tournament, but adding yet another piece of international hardware to his collection to go with his World Junior and Olympic gold medals put him in exclusive company.
2006 Olympic Games
The 2006 Olympics, held in Turin, Italy, did not go as well for the Canadians as the one before. Canada dropped 2-0 decisions to Switzerland and Finland in the round robin, and barely got through to the medal round. Canada was forced to face the powerful Russian team in the quarterfinals, and bowed out of the tournament early with a 2-0 loss.
Iginla was not to blame, though. He led the team in goals and finished second in points, looking rock solid no matter what his role was. His best moment was in the first game of the tournament, where Iginla scored two goals to lead the Canadians to a big 7-2 win over Italy.
Canada 2010 Olympic Games
The 2010 Olympics was an important one for Canada. After a tough showing four years prior, they looked to recapture the gold medal on home soil. Iginla had what can only be described as a monster tournament for Canada. He scored the first Canadian goal for the second straight Olympics, just one of three in an opening match hat-trick against Norway. He was an offensive machine for the Canadians, despite being on a team with so many prolific scorers. He went on to lead the entire tournament in goals with five, and was second in points on the Canadian team with seven, one behind Jonathan Toews.
His greatest moment though, is a no-brainer. Iginla’s best moment of the Vancouver Olympics was the Golden Pass to set up Sidney Crosby for the gold-medal-winning goal. Crosby will always be remembered as the man who scored, but he couldn’t have done it without Iginla.
Raise a banner for Iginla
The Calgary Flames have made it known that rather than just giving Iginla “Forever a Flame” status alongside Al MacInnis and Nieuwendyk, they are retiring his jersey. The best Flame of all time will have his number hanging from the rafters for years and years to come.
A fitting tribute to a legend in Calgary, the NHL, and the sport of hockey as a whole. Thank you, Jarome, for all you did for our city, our people, and the sport.