After enduring the growing pains – he arrived in Calgary in 1996 to play two playoff games as a young, wide-eyed teenager – Iginla was with the Flames as they turned the franchise around and made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2003-04. The team lost in Game 7 to Tampa. But the drive to win a Stanley Cup, and win it in Calgary, has never left Iginla.
Certainly he could have left the Flames for more money as a free agent. But he hasn’t. It’s like a job that is not quite complete. And a few of his mentors, Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux, have all played for the same team throughout their career.
“There are a lot of great hockey cities. For the fans and the passion, there isn’t a city that beats Calgary, ” said Iginla when he signed his five-year, $35 million deal in July 2007.
The Flames, obviously, feel the same way.
“My opinion is he is a special guy. Whether you are a general manager or somebody who is his neighbour or just a fan. It’s pretty obvious he is a special guy,” said Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter, who signed Iginla to the lone-term contract.
Iginla is off to his fifth NHL all-star game, this one in Montreal on the weekend of January 24-25.
With Iginla looking to lead the Flames for years to come, we thought we should get to know him just a little better and bring you 10 things you should know about Jarome Iginla
The birth certificate reads Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla. Born July 1, 1977 in Edmonton. We know him as Jarome or Iggy. Opponents know him as tough and relentless. Iginla, by the way, means ‘Big Tree’ in Yoruba, his father’s native language.TWO:
The early years
Iginla started playing hockey at the age of seven in Edmonton. But his first two seasons in minor hockey were as a goalie. By 15 he was leading the Alberta Midget Hockey League in scoring with 87 points. He went to Kamloops as a 16-year-old, played three seasons, won two Memorial Cups and, in 1996, shortly after the Flames had acquired him in a trade with Dallas, was named the best forward at the World Junior Championships in Boston. He is now a part owner of the Kamloops Blazers.THREE:
His longtime sweetheart
According to Iginla, he met his wife Kara, when they were very young. “We’ve been going out since, basically, Grade 8. Off and on there for a little bit through high school and college. But pretty much since Grade 8. Except when she needed a month or two or three break from me,” laughed Iginla. The couple now have three children; Jade, 4, Tij, 2, and Joe, four months.FOUR:
You might think this applies to how he plays hockey. You would be correct, of course. Iginla plays the game hard and at pace all the time. But what you might not know is that Iginla loves to play computer games. His favourite is Age of Empires 3. Is he any good?
“He’s pretty good but not as good as me,” quipped Craig Conroy, perhaps Iginla’s closest friend on the Flames. “He likes the strategy games, for sure.”FIVE:
The man has respect
In the final game of the 2007-08 season, against the Vancouver Canucks, Iginla scored his 50th goal of the season, reaching the plateau for the second time in his career. But what stood out was, after the game, Iginla and Robyn Regehr leading their teammates to shake hands with veteran Trevor Linden near centre ice. Linden, the long-time Canuck was rumoured to be retiring but Iginla, who has had his fair share of heated moments against Vancouver, brushed aside any hard feelings to create one of those special sports moments.
"For our team it was an honour if it was Trevor's last game to play against him," said Iginla at the time. “What he's done for us guys on the ice and also off the ice ... so it feels pretty good tonight. "
Linden, who was president of NHL Players Association during the difficult lockout season of 2004-'05, was caught a little off-guard by the display from the Flames but dubbed Iginla one of the best players in the game.SIX:
If Iginla is going to watch something other than sports in television is would likely be a World War II documentary or movie. He also likes series – things like Rome. “He buys all the series stuff,” said Conroy. “The Julius Caesar era, the World War II stuff. He likes to read a lot, too. He reads all kinds of books but he likes the history and the war books a lot.”SEVEN:
Iginla was quite the baseball player growing up – he was a catcher on Canada’s national junior team at one point. But if Iginla weren’t a hockey player, he would most likely be a golfer. He recently played a round of golf with Fred Couples in Kelowna, where Iginla spends part of the off-season, and Couples designed a new course.
After playing a round of golf with Iginla last summer, Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter remarked: “He says he is around a five handicap. I think he plays a lot better than that.”
Added Conroy: “He’s likely a three or a four. He loves his golf. That’s probably his second passion.”
“Whatever he says his handicap is, it isn’t low enough,” added Mike Cammalleri
, a five handicap himself.EIGHT:
The giving Iggy
Iginla donates $2,000 for every goal during the regular season to KidSport. This is the eighth year of this commitment and he has donated $430,000 so far. He began assisting KidSport Calgary in 2000 with a generous donation of $31,000, or $1,000 a goal, and the donations have benefited thousands of local kids.
After the NHL lockout in 2004-05, Iginla decided to spread his generosity even further by taking his initiative nationally and increasing his per goal contribution to $2,000. The additional $1,000 contribution is directed to KidSport Canada – which has benefited children from coast to coast.
• 2000-01: $31,000
• 2001-02: $52,000
• 2002-03: $35,000
• 2003-04: $54,000
• 2005-06: $80,000
• 2006-07: $78,000
• 2007-08: $100,000
• 2008-09: $20,000 and counting
Iginla also donated $5,000 per goal at the NHL All-Star game in 2008 – although Jarome didn’t score he still donated $5,000 to KidSport and donated $19,000 to the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation through the financial support of the Jarome Iginla
Hockey School in May 2008.
Iginla’s hockey school, which is a non-profit organization with proceeds to benefit Diabetes Research Association (Foothills), is held in Calgary in the summertime.NINE:
The media man
Sitting beside Iginla in the Flames dressing room isn’t always the best spot. There is a daily swarm of media at his stall with cameras, microphones, notebooks and pens and recorders all jostling for position. Iginla, who does hundreds of interviews in a season – he rarely gets a day away from media attention – is always patient, always willing to answer the questions, no matter what they are.
“Sometimes you can’t get to your stall,” laughed Dustin Boyd, who is seated beside Iginla in the Flames locker room this season. “You have to go change somewhere else. And sometimes you just get blocked in.”
Boyd appreciates the full extent of Iginla’s media commitments.
“He gets that big swarm every day but he is patient and does it all.”TEN:
The fitness and nutrition guy.
Iginla is always one of the fittest Flames when it comes to testing at the start of the season. He trains regularly and sticks with a regimen. When the rules of the game changes, he changed his training to get lighter and quicker while maintaining his strength and endurance.
“The weird thing is he told me he takes some time off in the summer. He said he will take a week here and there and not work out. When he told me I said ‘What, you take time off. I can’t believe that’,” said Conroy.
Nutrition plays a big role, too. “Oh, he is usually way out in front in that. Everything new out there he knows about. He is really knowledgeable in that area.”
Suffice to say there is no junk food in the diet. One of Iginla’s favourite foods? Sushi. “I love it. I eat a lot of it,” said Iginla.
“Yeah,” said Conroy. “He gets fired up about Sushi.”