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CONGRATS IGGY!

Jarome receives his ring at Hockey Hall of Fame to kick off action-packed weekend

by TY PILSON @typilson / CalgaryFlames.com

TORONTO - Jarome Iginla: Hockey Hall of Famer.

Sure has a nice ring to it.

Perhaps, then, it was only fitting that Friday's ring ceremony at the HHOF in downtown Toronto kicked off a busy induction weekend for the former Flames captain.

Iggy entered the hall with players Marian Hossa, Doug Wilson, Kevin Lowe and Kim St. Pierre, along with longtime NHL executive (and current Edmonton Oilers GM) Ken Holland as a builder.

They were elected to the Hall back in June of 2020 but Covid-19 put things on hold.

So when the former Flames captain walked through the doors of the sacred Hall to be finally officially welcomed into a club that consists of the greatest people to ever take part in the game, it was a magical moment.

Of course, it wasn't the first time he strolled into the hockey shrine - that happened some time ago.

But this one will surely be the most memorable. 

"For some reason when I was in my early 20s, and I was trying to think back if it was for the World Juniors," recalled Iginla, his trademark smile - which you knew was on full display - concealed by his mask. "I don't know why I remember being in Toronto, but it was somewhere around that time. It was so cool. Honestly, I never imagined that I would one day I would be in the Hall of Fame. You go around, you look at the plaques, you listen to the stories. To be here with the guys, it's truly humbling and it wasn't on the radar. It's so neat." 

 

Video: Behind the scenes at the Hall of Fame Ring Ceremony

 

The always humble Iginla said this weekend's experience will be surreal, and one he is thankful to experience. 

"Even coming here and seeing the history, it's hard to believe - the whole 20 years, getting to play in the NHL, getting to be in the Hall of Fame, seeing a picture when I looked a little younger," he said of his plaque. "To see it beside the different players and stuff, it's really, really cool and it makes the last bit - reflecting back and you think of all the people, all the memories, all the players you played with and different personalities, it's such a cool game and it's been so fun.

"It went so fast. I remember veterans telling me early on - Ronnie Stern, Theo - 'Just soak it in' and you'd be like, 'Ah, yeah, it's fine.' Even two years is a long time. I'd never played on one team longer than three. It goes by so fast. But I enjoyed it. I did take it in with those things. Each thing was still an amazing experience, even those tough years near the end when you were eliminated from the playoffs - up until that point, it's still so fun." 

While he played for a few other teams to finish out his career, Iginla is - and will always be - a Flame. His number is retired, paying homage to the franchise's all-time leader in games played, goals and points. He is simply synonomous with the Flaming C, a fan favorite and legend in our city.

His glorious career also included two Olympic gold medals, an Art Ross trophy, two Rocket Richard trophies, and a pair of runner-up finishes as both the NHL's rookie of the year (in 1997) and its most valuable player (he lost the Hart Trophy to Jose Theodore in a tiebreaker in 2002). A standout in junior with the Kamloops Blazers, he led the team to two two Memorial Cups.

Overall, an incredible journey for someone who became one of the most dominant players of not only his time, but in the history of the game.

"It really is," he agreed. "That's part of when I try to reflect back on it. Honestly, my first day... I show up and St. Albert is a really good sports place. It's very driven and people are into it. I imagine how I look - I wish my grandpa took a picture. He took me to tryouts. I tried one day on the outdoor rink and I literally had tube skates from when my grandparents had somebody's old skates in their basemen and I like - my aunt, with her boyfriend, took me to the outdoor rink down the street. I tried it once, couldn't imagine how I looked, and then the next year I signed up to play.

"I couldn't have imagined how that happened (laughs), but there I was! I went out to tryouts and St. Albert, like I said, it's got a great history and it's a really competitive place, and at tryouts, I'm skating around - and I wasn't really skating because it was my second time ever on the ice - and my grandpa thought they were going to give us jerseys, which is fair, right? But I had no socks, no jersey, and I was like, tryouts had started and I'm out there trying to do my circles, and I wish I had a pic, because it would be so neat.

"I didn't even know anybody, you know what I mean? But it was so neat. A lot of things have to go right. My grandpa loved sports and he put me in hockey schools and everything to try and catch up. But we also had an outdoor rink about a block away from my grandparents' where I would spend time after school. I lived with my mom, but I would spend every day after school there, so I would go to the outdoor rink and just be there, literally all the time and play as many sports as I did. I never had any time off during the year and I didn't want any time off. It's really neat to reflect.

"My first year, I obviously got placed in the worst league, and the next year, I didn't just come - I was in the second-worst league. And my third year, I was up with my normal age group. It was fun." 

 

 

Iginla also reminisced about his early days with the Flames, the stories and memories flooding back to him as he fielded questions surrounded by a throng of reporters and cameras.

"There are so many neat things when you bring back the stories," he said. "It goes fast, but there are certain moments that stick and that was getting that call at the World Juniors when Marcel Comeau called me and said I had been traded. It woke me up, and my first thought was - I was in junior - so I was like, 'Oh my God, I REALLY love Kamloops.' And then after, I was like, OK, I'm relieved, but then, the thought is maybe they didn't see enough in me - enough potential, maybe. That part was there.

"But then the other side of it was being part of the Joe Nieuwendyk trade with Corey Millen and getting a chance to talk to Bob Gainey, who was the coach and GM of Dallas at the time, it made me feel better. But still, you're like, 'Geez!' You want to get competitive, you want to hold up your side of it, so it's about trying to stay focused and as far as pressure, there really wasn't a ton of pressure in that sense. I didn't really try to think of it like, 'OK, Joe Nieuwendyk, 50-goal scorer, Hall-of-Famer,' all those things. It was more like trying to look at the positives. I knew that I'd get an opportunity to grow there in Calgary and get a chance to play. You never know if you're going to get that once you get drafted, it's not a gimme you're playing, and we never take it UNTIL you're playing that it's going to happen for sure. It was exciting.

"Literally, the most exciting game I ever played was that first one. I probably have three or four games that stand out in my head - but that first game that we played in the playoffs, it was like, I didn't expect to play it. The night before, I was playing in junior, I'm following the team, following the highlights, you're watching on Sports Night the NHL highlights every night to see it, and then all of a sudden, I'm in it. It was so cool. I remember the shifts and getting to play on Theo's line and I didn't just come up and get to play three shifts or two shifts a period - I was centring Theo and German Titov.

"It was literally like a video game and all of a sudden, I got put in there. That was really special and something I'll never forget."

Iginla was also asked by a reporter if he felt he was robbed during his career, not winning the Cup in 2004 and or the Hart Trophy.

"No. It's sports. No I don't." he said. "The Hart Trophy, I would have loved to win it, and to me that's an opinion and those different things. But I was still thrilled to be there. What an honour. The Stanley Cup one obviously hurt more. That was a stinger. I remember being on the bench - and this is probably what bothers me the most about it - because I remember being on the bench, 2-on-1, a pass across, and I'm like, 'Oooooh, that was close!' But we had to get the ref's attention before the puck drops. There was video replay and it just happened pretty quick, but I just wish I was like, 'Check it! Check it!' But it happened so quick and I was like, 'Well, you know, it was a close play' If you could speak up, maybe we would have had a few minutes left to hold on and win, who knows.

"But at the same time, when I look at my career, getting to play for 20 years, get to actually play in the games - we're pro athletes and we're playing in a business, but it's still a ton of fun. To be out there, you want to be out there on the ice. We're like big kids.

"Now, coaching, you see it when guys are sitting on the bench - it's not as fun. You're part of it, you have a role and all that, but I got to be in some really good roles and get to be on the ice and get to be in the games. So, no, if you would have told me to get to play until I was 39 years old and get to play as much as I did, get to play on Team Canada with lines that I played with Sakic and those guys - Crosby - it was just cool. I don't feel like I was robbed at all. It's part of sport. You get a bounce. I'm sure if we think about OT in 2010, that's a good play, a bounce, a good shot by Crosby - but if that bounce goes the other way, we lose. And that's part of sports, part of what you sign up for. I got lots of good bounces in different ways, in games, we won championships, Memorial Cup, World Juniors, stuff like that. I think we got a late one against Russia in the semis. That's part of sports, you sign up for it. 

Much like everything that will happen this weekend, including a fan Q&A at the Hall on Saturday, the Adidas HHOF Legends Classic (featuring some big-name former Flames teamates. Click here for details) on Sunday, and then the red-carpet ceremony Monday, its all about paying tribute to those who excelled at the highest level of the game and left indelible marks on it.

During his playing career, Iginla had many late-night flights after games and in his new 'career' as a minor hockey coach, he had one Thursday evening.

In Calgary to coach a Kelowna entry in the Rocky Mountain Classic U15 AAA Invitational, he and his son Joe hoped a red eye to Toronto after they played yesterday.

But instead of hitting the ice again, he's being celebrated for everything he accomplished both on and off it. 

And nobody deserves it more than him.

Congrats Iggy!

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