At age 20, as a bright-eyed, eager intern with the Calgary Flames, one of my first assignments was a generic piece on Jarome Iginla
A daunting task for a nervous newbie but to add to the challenge, I had an extremely short window of time to get the interview done in less than an ideal situation; the team was coming off a rough loss and Iginla was facing a host of questions about his team's performance that would have left most players in a less-than-hospitable mood.
Expecting that my first interview with the captain would be either be a no-go or produce very generic, cliched short answers, I trudged over to his stall. Media members were clearing the area and Iginla started to move towards the showers but spotted me tentatively making my way towards him.
He gave me the patented Iggy grin, motioned me over to a corner of the locker room and proceeded to answer all of my questions - which were nervously stuttered out - at great length, going into extensive detail about various moments in his already-storied career.
The next day, he saw me leaving the dressing room and stopped me before I got to the door. Still very much in that tentative, 'Oh my God, did I do something wrong?' phase of my career, I wasn't sure what to expect but Iginla simply patted me on the shoulder and said, 'Great work.'
That, folks, is Jarome Iginla in a nutshell.
The face of the Calgary Flames franchise is known around the league as one of the classiest, most distinguished players to ever play the game and that description isn't in the least bit exaggerated. He epitomizes the all of the characteristics every legend in the game possesses: an elite talent level, a born leader, an absolute warrior with the will and ability to carry his team on his back and a personality that has come to symbolize the entire organization.
He is the Flames leader in games played (1219), points (1095), goals (525) and multi-goal games (92). He trails only Al MacInnis in assists with 570 and is second in four-goal games (1) and three-goal games (12). He has been an indomitable force for the past 16 years and while he may be a member of the Penguins now, he will always be a Flame.
Over the last five and a half years, I've watched this team go through incredible changes but Iginla has been the constant both in his presence and his personality. He has never been anything but polite, respectful, gracious and willing to do anything for the team.
Life without him feels almost inconceivable given the impact he’s had on this organization and this city but both sides must move forward, pushing past the uncertainty and murkiness to reach the next chapter. However, the Iginla Era cannot be forgotten nor can it be replaced. It is a period of time that the team, fans and the man himself cherish and hold in high regard. The emotional resonance of his tenure cannot adequately be put into words.
Thank you, Iggy. It truly was an honour.