Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay have been the Colorado Avalanche’s top dynamic duo, if you will.
They’ve gone together like peanut butter and jelly, Han and Chewy, Timbits and coffee, hockey and Zambonis.
Two veteran players who’ve done it all and then some, Iggy and Tangs have a seemingly magical connection, and both have scored off each other as if there’s some sort of crazy, black magic involved. As of April 6, Iginla leads the Avs in goals (26) and sits second in points (55), and Tanguay—third in goals (22) and points (52)—isn’t far behind.
Credit that to a history of playing together because those two just know how to connect.
“I think having played together for such a long period of time certainly helps. We know each other’s tendencies. We know where each other likes to be,” Tanguay said. “There’s some set plays that we do that we’ve been working on for years. He’s a great shooter, and when you play with any type of player, you try to use their best attribute.
“Jarome certainly doesn’t have the amount of goals that he has because he can’t shoot the puck. He’s a great shooter. He finds open areas. He’s very smart. He’s a lot of fun to play with.”
Five seasons spent skating side by side, living on the road and traveling North America together with the Calgary Flames certainly adds to their on-ice bond. It also offers up one of Colorado’s more interesting statistics this year. As of April 6, Tanguay had assisted on 11 of Iginla’s tallies in an Avalanche sweater this season, bringing his career total to 75 helpers on his friend’s goals. Only former Flames forward Craig Conroy (85) has aided Iginla more than Tanguay—a fact that isn’t lost on No. 12.
“That sounds about right. I really enjoy playing with him. He’s a guy that you really just try to get open for. You try to get open, and he’s sees you,” Iginla said of his 35-year-old colleague. “He can pass it through guys. He can pass it under their stick. He can make plays in traffic, through traffic, and it’s definitely a big skill and an art. I’ve been very fortunate to get to play with him and I’ve benefitted, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
“Obviously time helps. He’s a great shooter, and I’m kind of more the other way. I like to pass the puck a little bit more,” added Tanguay.
Iginla reached a career milestone on Jan. 30, recording his 1,200th NHL point—a goal—in a 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center. Who had an assist on the score? Tanguay, of course.
“He’s a great talent. You don’t get 1,200 points in this game by accident. This is a guy that’s extremely talented, and I’ve been lucky enough to play with him a long time. I guess that’s part of the reason why we’ve connected so often,” Tanguay said. “From the start, there were certain situations that have come natural. He can go to a certain spot, and I know that he’s going to be in that spot.
“There are different plays that we’ve been working on for years. He thinks the game offensively, very similarly to what I think. So we tend to know where each other are going to be. It helps to have played with a guy that long. Sometimes I don’t even have to look, I know where he is.”
Vision for the game is one thing, but knowing where your teammate is without taking the time to look, communicating with some sort of strange hockey telepathy, is something else altogether.
“That’s part of the chemistry, but you do develop certain plays that happen on the ice, where we kind of know where to look for each other and what we’re trying to do. That helps,” said Iginla. “It’s a quick game, things happen fast out there. So any time you can make those split-second decisions a little bit easier, it’s nice.”
It should come as no surprise, given their on-ice rapport, that Tanguay played a key role in Iginla choosing to sign with the Avalanche as a free agent—on his birthday no less—on July 1, 2014.
“I remember when we spoke to Alex before July 1, and Tangs said that they had great chemistry together in Calgary,” Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations Patrick Roy recalled.
A scouting report from a former teammate worked both ways in this instance. Iginla also reached out to Tanguay, gaining valuable knowledge before making the decision to move to Denver.
“I talked to him about everything from on the ice, off the ice, family stuff, what style of play—all those different things. He thought it would be a good fit too. All those things add up,” Iginla said. “On and off the ice, it makes it more comfortable to come in. When you’re talking about the team, I value his opinion, he’s played on some great teams. He spoke very highly of the guys, of the group.
“When you have options as a forward, as a shooter, you want to play with guys who like to move the puck, and here we have a bunch of guys that do. All those guys make it more appealing, and he was definitely a part of the reason for wanting to come here.
“I’m glad I came, and I like the group and think we’re going to do some good things.”
When Tanguay heard the news of Iginla’s signing, he was elated to reunite with such a prestigious member of the 500-goal club.
“I was excited. I obviously know the type of career that he’s had, the success that he’s had. It’s always nice to have a player like that on your team,” said Tanguay, turning toward the success they’ve had together since the summer. “He’s been a good addition to our team, and we’re hoping that we can have more success down the stretch. We still feel that we’ve got more to give.”
For Iginla, the feeling is mutual.
“He’s a fun guy to play with. He’s very driven. He’s pretty tough on himself. You’ll think he had a great game, and he’ll always be like ‘Well, I don’t know,’” Iginla joked, portraying Tanguay with a gruff, older voice. “But it’s fun because he’s always pushing, and he rubs off on his linemates.”