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Flames say goodbye to their captain

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Jarome Iginla was noticeable by his absence from the ice Wednesday night -- and no one noticed more than his Calgary Flames teammates.

While the Flames were beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 at Scotiabank Saddledome, their captain was a healthy scratch in the wake of trade negotiations that eventually saw the 35-year-old dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

His teammates didn't know the destination post-game, only that Iginla was no longer their captain.

"It's hard," forward Alex Tanguay said of seeing Iginla go. "Over time, you build relationships and I've been playing with Jarome for the better part of five years. Sometimes a situation occurs where those types of things are forced to happen. It's sad to see."

Seeing not only a teammate, but a friend depart was difficult for Mike Cammalleri, who scored twice against the Avalanche with Iginla watching from home.

"For me personally, he's a tremendous friend, a very close friend, and I've learned a ton from him on and off the ice, hockey and non-hockey related," he said. "He'll be missed, certainly."

He already was.

The mood in Scotiabank Saddledome was different, one Cammalleri couldn't put his finger on.

"It's different. It's weird for sure," he said. "I think he's been such presence on this team, this city, this organization for so long. He's such a dominant player, a guy who is in the lineup all the time not missing any games."

Iginla was a healthy scratch for the first time since April 8, 2007 -- he had played 441 consecutive games prior to Wednesday. His last game came Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, something Mark Giordano couldn't help but feel accountable for.

"I think it's an eye-opener a bit," he said. "As players, anytime you see a friend and a teammate going through anything like that, you also feel responsible. You feel like you're a part of it and obviously, [we] just tried to emphasize hard work tonight and get a win."

A few more wins and Iginla might still be a Flame, Tanguay indicated.

"We're all very aware of what kind of business it is," he said. "What have you done for me lately? I've been here three years and we haven't been in the playoffs. The position we're in now, no one would call it ideal. It was forced by the situation. If we're standing in fourth, I don't think we'd be unloading a player of his abilities. Obviously it's caused by the team."

But for a moment, Flames fans weren't concerned about the standings.

Though he wasn't in the building, fans were focused on sending Iginla to Pittsburgh with a rambunctious ovation of "Iggy! Iggy! Iggy!" he was sure to hear.

"It was cool. I think it was a nice gesture by the fans," Giordano said. "There's no doubt what he means to the organization and the city."

That city, its fans and the organization won't soon forget Iginla's contributions. Nor will his teammates, on and off the ice.

Author: Aaron Vickers | Correspondent

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