The magic lives within Iginla
Jarome Iginla learned a valuable lesson about self-belief as a youngster. But, like most lessons, this nugget of truth did not fully pay off until much later in life.
Iginla still vividly remembers being at his grandparents' home, burying his nose in books to pass the time during the harsh Alberta winters. Just 7, he found a series of children's books that dealt with developing desirable personality characteristics through stories involving famous people.
The series, known as Valuetales, was written by several authors and illustrated by Steve Pileggi. One of the books chronicled the life of Maurice "Rocket" Richard, the famous forward of the Montreal Canadiens.
At the time, Iginla knew nothing about hockey. But, he fell in love with the book, Value of Tenacity: The Story of Maurice Richard, and the life of Richard.
"It was my first introduction to any hockey player," recalled Iginla. "I was just 7 at the time."
The plot of the story, according to Iginla, involves Richard and his "magic" hockey stick that talks to him and makes him into a great hockey player. One day the stick breaks and Richard is very distraught. But, in the end, Richard is still a great player without his "magic" stick because along the way he learned to believe in himself and relied upon that confidence in the face of adversity.
The lesson made a strong impact on the young Iginla. At the time, it was just a cute story that jumpstarted a youngster's imagination. Much later, it would become a parable for Iginla's young and burgeoning career as a professional hockey player.
Iginla was moved to recall that lesson this June when he won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer for the 2001-02 season. In his acceptance speech, Iginla mentioned the book and its impact on his career.
"I loved that book when I was little and it was great to accept the trophy that bears his name and to meet his brother," said Iginla.
Many could argue that Iginla had his own "magic" stick this past season.
Iginla scored 52 goals last year to finish ahead of more established scorers like Pavel Bure and Teemu Selanne, the only other players to win the Richard award in its four-year history.
The scoring trophy is just the latest piece of evidence that Iginla is already well along the path to NHL super-stardom. On the same day in June that he was honored for his goal-scoring process, his peers awarded him the NHLPA’s Pearson Award as their most valuable player. Iginla lost the League's other MVP award, the Hart Trophy, in a tie-breaker with Montreal goalie Jose Theodore.
For Iginla, those awards were the culmination of the process of developing his self-belief; a process that began when he arrived in Kamloops, British Columbia as a shy 16-year-old to play junior hockey in the rough-and-tumble Western Hockey League.
"I think that self-belief was a big part of my success last year," said Iginla on the eve of training camp for the 2002-03 season. "I always wanted to be an elite player, but believing I could get there and getting there were two different things."
While Iginla had a few doubts about his ability to become one of the League's top dozen impact players, very few others he encountered had similar reservations.
Once he arrived in Kamloops as a reed-thin 16-year-old, the term “star” followed him around. But, that first year with the Blazers, Iginla saw limited action.