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Lanny McDonald talks about why teammates and fans love Jarome Iginla

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The right thing is often the furthest thing from the easy thing. 

From the convenient thing. From the expedient thing.

"He took on the role, a difficult role, not only as a responsibility,'' Lanny McDonald is saying of his younger alter-ego, Jarome Iginla, "but he wanted to show the rest of the guys the way it had to be done.

"He was determined to set an example.

"He wanted to give the rest of the guys someone to follow.

"That's what true leadership, what being a captain, is all about."

Class is a rare characteristic that cannot be taught, faked, purchased at the corner store or even approximated.

You either got it or you don't.

Both these men, No. 9 and No. 12, in differing eras, epitomized the word.

There are days, McDonald knows only too well from first-hand experience, when as a highly public figure, the face of a franchise that is the overriding passion of an entire city, maybe you're not at your best, things are bugging you, and you'd rather the whole world take a rain check for 24 hours or so on you and just go away.

"But,'' he says, "you can't. You can maybe let yourself down at home, when you're alone and no one's there to see you. But you can't in the public eye.

"It just doesn't work.

"Not if you want to be the leader Jarome wanted to be. And was.

"He understood how important the fans are. He was polite to everyone. He respected everyone.

"He felt that was a responsibility."

Iginla, like McDonald, was an old-time hero. Something straight out of Stan Lee's easel and Marvel Comics. The lavishly-decorated player who was also a swell guy in an ah-shucks kind of way.

And on the ice?

"Here's someone who brought his A-Game each and every night,'' lauds McDonald. "He played hard, not only for himself but for the organization and especially for his teammates.

"It wasn't just about scoring goals or dropping the gloves and fighting when he felt it was needed. He leaned on people. He knocked people off the puck to get it back.

"He didn't ask anyone to do the dirty work. He was more than willing to do his own, and other people's, if that was called for.

"You think of the run in '04 and how hard they all played. How hard he played. When the game was on the line, (Vincent) Lecavalier and Jarome go at it.

"Whatever it takes it to win. Whatever I've gotta do, I'll do.

"That was Jarome.

"To give up a franchise player like Nieuwy and then have the guy coming in turn out to be the face of your franchise for as long as Jarome was … absolutely phenomenal."

Nearly three decades after the Hanna Rifle retired with a lavish send-off out at his Springbank digs, Jarome Iginla readies to say his goodbyes July 30 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

In this town, even through the passing of the years, Lanny's star has never flickered, let alone faded. What he brought to a game, to a city, to an organization, never goes out of style.

He's certain Iginla's legacy is every bit as secure.

"I mean, 500 goals as a Calgary Flame?'' he asks. "How many people are going to score 500 for a single team anymore?

"I can tell you: Not many. If any.

"He played with grit. He led his team. He scored goals. Great shot. Great teammate. He did things the right way.

"That's why people love him."

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