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'IT'S HUMBLING'

Iginla honoured and thrilled to have his iconic No. 12 retired by the Flames on March 2 against the Wild

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Make it official. 

No Flame will ever wear No. 12 again.

Not that anyone has, since. 

Or would.

Or'd dare.

"I remember going to the different rinks in my first few years and looking up, checking to see the banners and the jerseys hanging in each of them," Jarome Iginla is saying from his home in Boston.

"When I had questions about a player maybe before my time I didn't know a lot about with a banner, I'd ask one of our trainers or Rico (Rich Preston) - he seemed to know everything - or Darryl (Sutter).

"Maybe in 30 or 40 years, some young guy will see mine and say: 'Who's that? 

"But it's always been such a great part of the atmosphere in rinks, looking up and seeing the names, the numbers.

"Over my career I've been lucky enough to be there to see a few of them go up around the league in different cities.

"So for it to be me … it's humbling. A huge honour. A thrill.

"And, to be honest, a little bit surreal."

On March 2, with the Minnesota Wild in town, Iginla's signature No. 12 will be officially retired and make its way to the upper echelons of the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Hockey Night in Canada telecast. Saturday night. Coast-to-coast across the country.

Naturally.

Seven months since coming home to officially announce he was exiting the game after 20 seasons of what will surely be a Hall-of-Fame career, Iginla is set to receive the highest individual honour a franchise can bestow.

"Oh, you never want to retire,'" he laughs. "It isn't exactly exciting, retirement. I mean, it's not like you can't wait to retire.

"I played 20 years and had this great, great job and loved every minute of it. But when we retire, we're still pretty young.

"So this, this will feel different. I imagine how it'll be. I'm looking forward to it. But I don't know what to expect. It's never happened to be me before.

"I'm obviously excited but I think now that my kids are really into hockey, the NHL, the history, it's gonna be so neat for my family. To have them there, and friends, and the fans.

"I'll try to soak it all in.

"And I feel fortunate to be able to do it when the Flames are doing this well. The fans there are great hockey fans. I got to experience that. Very knowledgable, very passionate. I never got to experience being the first-place team, one of the front-runners, one of the favourites.

"I can only imagine how pumped everybody there is."

Video: Tribute to the great No. 12

This ceremony, celebrating a legend, will only add more juice to a season that has, as the legend himself mentioned, proven memorable on a number of levels.

Iginla, of course, for so long meant so much more to Calgary than those 1,219 games, 525 goals, 1,095 points - all franchise records - and that unforgettable journey to the very gates of Olympus in the spring of 2004. 

In his humility, the way he carried himself, he became an indisputable point of pride for the community, reflecting our best selves caught in the spotlight, on the public stage.

As testament to Iginla's greatness, he wore No. 12 after another superb player, Hakan Loob, and still made it his own.

So, March 2. Mark the evening in your calendar.

Time for one last Iggy Dance on the Jumbotron. One final opportunity to jump to your feet at the Scotiabank Saddledome and split your gloves applauding a man who provided so much goodness, so many marvels, such indelible memories, over 16 winters.

To watch, along with him and his nearest and dearest, as the No. 12 makes it way to the hockey heavens, where it belongs.

"You start playing," Iginla is musing, "you just want to make it to the NHL, to prove yourself, and then the years go by so fast … you never think about having your jersey … up there, in the rafters, you know?

"You never think in terms of being part of a history.

"So, like I said, surreal.

"I feel very blessed. For sure.

"It's going to be pretty cool - pretty cool? It's going to be really cool - to think I'm going to be a part of Flames history."

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