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MOTHER KNOWS BEST

'When somebody asks me what pleases me most about his career, I always say: 'How much people love him'

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

The lady had, considering the emotional resonance of the day, the absolute chicest possible fashion accessory - a pair of Jarome Iginla-inspired ear-rings.

Front of the sweater/Flaming C crest dangling from one lobe, the back signature No. 12 and nameplate from the other.

"When somebody asks me what pleases me most about his career, I always say: 'How much people love him,'' says Susan Schuchard, her son Jarome having officially bid farewell in his old neighbourhood to the league he had enriched, a game he had mastered, for two decades.

"He's had a wonderful career and I've been so lucky to able to watch him play the game he loves, since the age of seven," she says. "I have so many memories. And he's had so many wonderful things happen to him.

"But his character, the way people talk about him as a person, how nice he is, how accommodating to everyone, that's what I take away more than anything."

Such pride is well warranted.

Over the course of his 16 seasons modelling the colours, the one over-riding word to describe him is: Class.

How he interacted with people.

How he conducted himself on a very public stage.

How he represented his organization, his sport and himself.

With his mom, dad, wife Kara and three kids - daughter Jade, sons Tij and Joe - in attendance inside Scotiabank Saddledome's Chryster Club Monday, the soft hue of nostalgia was, naturally, everywhere.

"I remember when Jarome was in minor hockey and they'd be beaten badly,'' recalled Susan. "I'd remind him: 'See how that feels? Doesn't feel good, does it? So when you beat another team, make sure you don't rub it in.'

"He understood that early. He always wanted to win, of course, but he took that to heart.

"And he's never been one to say: 'Look at me! Look at me!' He's never sought attention. When he was small, he was more happy to pass than to score.

"I remember him telling me, so proud: 'Today, my friend's going to get a hat-trick.'

"How much of that is learned and how much is innate? I don't know, but he's always amazed me with his kindness and his compassion."

A favourite mom moment from among so many?

Scroll all the way back to Game 4 of the 1996 first-round series, Chicago-Calgary. The teenaged Iginla has been called up from Kamloops of the WHL for the third and fourth instalments of what would turn out to be a sweep for the Blackhawks.

"His first goal,'' said Susan. "I'd never been to an NHL game before. I'd missed (Game 3) because I didn't think he was going to play. He didn't, either. I remember watching his first game on TV he played and they're saying things like: Jarome Iginla's here to save the Flames!'

And I'm screaming: 'He's 18! Give him a break, will you!?'

"It was exciting but I thought it might've been too much pressure, at 18. But obviously he could handle it, and it was just enough to get Flames' fans excited about this new, young kid."

The excitement would only grow as Iginla morphed from promising winger to mainstay to captain to Olympic hero, to superstar, to icon.

A hardest parenting moment?

"The trade,'' Susan replied without hesitation. "That was tough. He called me up and he said: 'Mom, I'm not playing tonight.' I couldn't watch.

"He wanted to stay here, play here.

"Which is why this, today, is so special. This is his team. He played well for the other teams, he wouldn't trade any of his experiences, but he loved Calgary … loves Calgary.

"I got quite emotional today. Especially when he was looking right at me. When I saw him play in L.A., I told him: 'I don't think you're done.' He didn't, either. But as time went on, he realized how much he wanted to spend more time with the kids.

"To be a part of this, for me, to watch what he's gone through, the highs and lows, and for him to play as many years as he did here …

"How lucky … that's all I can say."

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