One number stands out among all the milestones that the Colorado Avalanche achieved in the 2015-16 season: 600. Of course, that number could only be Jarome Iginla’s career goal total after he scored the marker on Jan. 4.
The magnitude of this accomplishment was not understated as he approached it during the first half of the season. Attention was fixed on the number as Iginla climbed the list of the league’s all-time greatest offensive talents.
Nearly a week after reaching the milestone, Iginla was honored in a pre-game ceremony on Jan. 12 with his family in attendance.
“I think back to myself, I remember being in pee wee, and you’re watching Rock‘Em Sock‘Em Hockey and watching guys on that list play,” he said of that elite company. “You dream of just getting to the NHL. It’s been a lot of fun being able to play as long as I have and with the players I have.
While the next generations of pee wee players may not be popping in a VHS to watch highlights like he did, they will certainly be looking to Iginla as an inspiration.
In his 19 seasons in the league, 2015-16 marked the 11th time that the forward appeared in all 82 games. Since joining the Avalanche on July 1, 2014, he has yet to miss a single game. A model of consistency, he passed the 1,400-game milestone on Oct. 27 at Florida and has now taken the ice in 1,474 contests, a number only 20 other players have ever managed to reach.
He completed last season with 22 goals, bringing his career total to 611 and a ranking of No. 16 on the NHL's all-time goals list. The veteran buried 13 of his 22 goals on the power play, which led the team and was the most since Joe Sakic’s 16 in 2006-07. Also contributing 25 assists, Iginla helped his teammates find the back of the net as well.
The last campaign was also the 17th in which he made it to the 20-goal mark, placing him second among active players in the category to only Jaromir Jagr (19).
While the numbers certainly testify to the greatness of Iginla’s career, even more important are the qualities that he brings with him on and off the ice, including his kindness and his leadership.
"I'm happy for him. Jarome is having a great career," said Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov of one of the team's alternate captain. "He's still playing. He looks like 25, not 38 years old. It's nice to play with him on the same team…He's a great player, nice guy, great teammate."
Iginla's journey through the record books continues in 2016-17.