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Ex-teammates back Iggy, Pens

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Any team he was going to go to I was going to cheer for. That's the one thing. I cheer for all my friends. - Craig Conroy

CALGARY, AB -- National Hockey League players don't pick favourites.

The Calgary Flames may make an exception for Jarome Iginla.

More than a few Flames players acknowledged they'll keep an eye on the Pittsburgh Penguins out East, if not to root on their former captain.

"I'm really excited for him to get a chance to play with a team that's pretty stacked right now," Mikael Backlund said. "They're favorites right now. Even before he got there they were favorites to win. I'm happy for him but it's tough to see him leave. He's been here for a long time."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Penguins and Flames aren't chasing each other for a playoff spot. In fact, the two teams won't even see each other this season as part of the condensed schedule.

It makes it easier to cheer for Iginla and the Penguins, according to TJ Brodie.

"Definitely," he said. "Them being in the other conference definitely helps but I wish him all the best and I hope everything works out for him."

As a part of realignment next season, the Penguins will pay a visit to Calgary. The Flames will travel to Pittsburgh, too. Should the unrestricted free agent Iginla remain in the Steel City, Brodie may change his tone.

"Then it'll be a different story," Brodie said. "But for now, yeah."

Iginla could wear red, blue, purple, yellow or orange, and he'll still have a fan in longtime friend Craig Conroy, who played alongside Iginla before moving into the role of special assistant to general manager Jay Feaster.

"Any team he was going to go to I was going to cheer for," Conroy said. "That's the one thing. I cheer for all my friends. It's hard when it comes down to the end.

"You build up those relationships and Iggy and I will be friends forever and it's a sad day, really though, to see him leave. He's been here so long and everything he does for the community and the way he handles himself with the media, with just everybody. It's just too bad."

For now, the likes of Conroy, Backlund and Brodie will watch the black and gold closely, hoping this year Iginla can inch closer to hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career.

After that, all bets are off.

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