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Iggy breaks down the offseason

by Peter Zuurbier / Calgary Flames
Opinions on the Flames offseason have been as easy to come by around Calgary lately as free pancake breakfasts, but one opinion matters to the Flames faithful more than anyone else, that of their fearless leader, Jarome Iginla.

In the midst of a busy summer for both himself and his team, Iginla snuck away from his hockey camp Wednesday and took time to discuss the Flames' summer, the Olympic team, and of course the Jarome Iginla/Cassie Campbell Hockey School.

Since their first round playoff exit, the Flames have been devoutly focused on reaffirming their commitment to defence. The captain was very happy to see Jay Bouwmeester added to the lineup, feeling he makes the teams' defence even more formidable.

"It's very exciting to get Jay (Bouwmeester) to join us... that's a great defence group that we have, it's definitely the strength of our club," said Iginla.

"They're guys that can play all different ways, move the puck, skate, play defensively, chip in and help out offensively; they're very well rounded... If you look at our team we have very good defensemen, but they'll also contribute offensively. You look at some of the top offensive teams in the league and the defence is a big part of it

The bitter taste leftover from the ending of last season seemed to linger briefly for Iginla, who took responsibility as team captain for the coaching turnover.

"It's always hard as players when there's a coaching change. We didn't achieve the results we were hoping for (last season) and the responsibility is definitely on us... We can improve, we need to improve, and we will improve," said Iginla who is nonetheless anxious to play for his new coaches.

"It's very exciting. As a player (Brent Sutter) was very successful and coaching at every level he's been very successful... I've talked to Brent and he's definitely talked about the defensive side of the puck. Starting there and working out... That can be a strength of our team, we want it to be, and we need to get back there, but we also know it can't end there and we need to do better on both sides."
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With the addition of Bouwmeester has come the loss of Cammalleri, Leopold, Vandermeer, and Aucoin. Though the offseason is not over yet, Iginla expects the young players to pick up some of the slack, especially on the offensive end.

"Every year there are a lot of changes and as many as there have been, player wise, there are many of us who are returning... Change is part of it but you have to focus on what is the same too," said Iginla.

"There's no question other guys will have to jump up... We're capable of finding more goals in our lineup but it's going to be a challenge."

The loss of linemate Mike Cammalleri was especially difficult for Iginla, but he's looking forward to cheering him from afar.

"To be honest I'm happy (Cammalleri)'s over in the east," said Iginla. "I'm happy he's not in our division where we'd have to play him every day. Now that he's in the east I can pull for him and be happy for him."

With the Olympics on the horizon and Iginla one of the mainstays for Team Canada, his summer will be shorter than usual. This sits fine with the Flames Captain, who is eager to host the other players in Calgary for the Olympic Orientation Camp August 24-27.

"Summer's fun but it's always fun to start the year off too. It's a thrill to be invited to camp and it's going to be right here, in Calgary, at the Saddledome so I'm very excited about that," said Iginla.

"The Olympics are right around the corner and all of us who were invited want to make a good impression. It's a chance to compete with some of the best players. I'll start training a little earlier than usual and I'm looking forward to it."

While some players like to ease into their season, Iginla is the polar opposite. The unique opportunity to kick off the campaign with high-level competition appeals to Iginla, who hopes to translate eraly momentum into a quick start.

"It's a great way to get ready for the season. Guys are extremely competitive from the first practice, nobody eases into it. I've always felt good going into a season after these summer (Olympic camps)."

With the Olympic camp still weeks away, Iginla is squarely focused on having fun with the kids at his hockey school.

"It's fun to come and hang out with the kids and it's very nice of Cassie Campbell to come and join our school," said Iginla.

"Time flies, I really enjoyed going to hockey schools when I grew up and I feel very blessed to be in the NHL and be apart of this hockey school now."

The Jarome Iginla/Cassie Campbell Hockey School is a five-day camp for boys and girls ages 6-12. The school includes daily on-ice sessions with Iginla and Campbell, dry-land training and video sessions.

The School was originally introduced in the summer of 2002 by Iginla as another medium with which he could have a positive influence on Calgary children, while also contributing funding to important charitable organizations. Campbell joined Iginla last year to rebrand the program as the Jarome Iginla / Cassie Campbell Hockey School. The school is focused on having fun and developing a love for the game as well as basic hockey skills.

"We want to give them a few tips. It's not an extremely serious hockey school by any means but we want to give them some fundamentals but mostly just get some ice time, have fun and play some games. At the same time we're able to raise money for some different local charities," said Iginla, who is starting to notice a slight difference as he continues with the seventh year of the camp.

"I told them I play for the Calgary Flames and I've played for 13 years, then I remembered most of them are only 10 years old. I'm going to have to start saying something different so I don't age myself as much."

Over the last seven years, the Jarome Iginla/Cassie Campbell Hockey School has raised over $89,000 for charitable groups like the Diabetes Association (Foothills Calgary), Stars Air Ambulance, Easter Seal’s Camp Horizon (Bragg Creek), For the Love of Reading Fun, Doctors Without Borders, and OXFAM Canada.

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