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SIMPLY SURREAL

Your Flames Authority George Johnson talks to Jarome Iginla about this Saturday's historic jersey retirement

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

A week or so before doing the Icon thing, Jarome Iginla was busying himself with commitments to doing the Dad thing.

"We had a great time," reports the co-coach of the Boston Jr. Eagles, just returned home from the Québec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament.

"You hear so much about the tournament and it certainly didn't disappoint. There's a lot of time off so we did some dog-sledding, tubing, different things mixed in with the hockey.

"It's awesome for the kids, and the parents."

The Eagles, including Tij Iginla, won their first two games, then were knocked from title contention with a loss in the third. 

Tij, BTW, scored four goals.

Just like the old man.

"Great crowds. The rink's brand new, as you know. I never got to play in Quebec City during my career. But now I can see what all the fuss was about.

"A beautiful city. Neat size.

"A good experience."

Which segues nicely into Saturday and a never-to-be-replicated experience. 

Surrounded by his nearest and dearest, not to mention 19,000-plus who consider themselves to be part of the extended family, Iginla's signature No. 12 will rise, with appropriately dramatic flourish, to the ceiling summit of the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"I'm going to try and relax, enjoy it," says the man of this and so many other touchstone moments in this town. "Only happens once. So it's not really something you can prepare for. I've been so busy with what I'm going to say, planning for people coming in, that I really haven't had time to think about how I'll feel.

"I'm more nervous now that we're talking about it …

"I remember when I was traded out of Calgary. I thought I'd be fine.

"Then just kinda … hit me. I had to catch myself a little bit. But you do start thinking about how long you'd been there a lot of time, all the people and experiences. It's not an emotional moment, really. It just kinda hits you.

"I don't cry a lot at these type of things.

"Like I said, I'm just going to try and enjoy it. I certainly appreciate it."

As prep for what's awaiting him at his long-time stomping grounds, while away in the wilds of Quebec, Iginla made sure he tuned in to the NHL's TV feed.

"I saw Niedermayer's ceremony, and Doaner's, and I thought they were both great," he says, referencing the jersey retirements of Scott Niedermayer's No. 27 in Anaheim on Feb. 17 and pal Shane Doan's No. 19 in Arizona this past Sunday. "Doaner, you could tell, was a little uncomfortable at times. I mean, people are up there just talking about YOU. That can seem a bit awkward, I'm sure.

"A lot of spotlight.

"But a really cool honour."

In retirement, Iginla's keeping busy helping coaching both sons, Tij and Joe (daughter Jade is taking a hiatus at present, recovering from injury), a six-days-a-week gig. In the doing, he's learning first-hand just how stressful the coaching profession can be.

Why, one game he even got ejected.

"Welllllllll, I thought it was a tough call," laughs Iginla. "You're trying to be a good role model. But I couldn't help myself. I didn't swear. I wasn't yelling. Ask my wife. She was up in the stands, heard everything and couldn't believe I got tossed.

"All I said was: That was a horrible call. And it was: 'You're oughta here!'

"I deserved what I got. I realized afterwards I was over the line. I learned a lesson, haven't gotten tossed since.

"It's amazing, trying to tone down the competitive side.

"I'm definitely using some of Darryl one-liners. He had some great ones.

"It's been a ton of fun, though."

Saturday promises just that, too.

"It's cool to look back and enjoy (his career). But there's lot of neat times ahead, too, every day is enjoyable.

"Calgary was an awesome experience. It all feels like it went by so … fast. Life goes so fast.

"It's surreal. It really is.

"What's cool is that something like this does make you reflect. Everybody that's been a part of my career is special in their own way. From teammates, linemates, the friendships, like Conroy, Gelly. The coaches I had, like Darryl. Greg Gilbert, who gave us such freedom as players. So many others.

"I played junior with Husk, who'll be there on the (Flames') bench. Lots of people still there in the organization that I remember well. Depo. Corey Osmack. The office staff. Ownership.

"At a certain point, you go back and there's not that many people left from your time there. That's not the case here.

"Feels a lot like the same crew to me. And that makes it even more special."
Saturday, the Scotiabank Saddledome is unquestionably the place to be, one last chance to salute a legend.

"A lot of family and friends will be there and hopefully they make it go smoother," says Iginla. "You never think 'One day my jersey retired.' First of all, you're dreaming of someday playing in the NHL, then trying to make the league, then win games, help the team.

"And, as I said, everything goes by so, so fast.

"So this is just … surreal. It really is."

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