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'SPECTACULAR PLAYER, SPECTACULAR PERSON'

Tanguay says skill, drive, desire and belief set Iginla apart

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

They were, in a word, simpatico.

Alex Tanguay, the light-fingered sorcerer able to yank the tablecloth off without so much as disturbing a single piece of cutlery, and Jarome Iginla, among the most ruthless finishers of an era.

"I don't know what made us good together," says Alex Tanguay. "His game was based on shooting and power. My game wasn't.

"I was more of a passer.

"So I guess we complemented each other.

"I remember passing the puck to him and it didn't matter where or how hard the pass was. I knew he'd e able to shoot it with power and accuracy.

"Playing with a guy like that, you want to make use of his best assets. So you search them out. Him being on the left side and me being on the right, I remember being able to float pucks into his wheelhouse and … bang."

The season Tanguay arrived in Calgary - his negotiating rights traded by Colorado to the Flames at the 2006 Entry Draft - Iginla scored 39 goals and compiled 94 points while the new boy had 59 helpers and 81 points.

"We took 10 games or so to figure it out,'' recalls Tanguay, "but after that …"

While Iginla was most noted for his shot and physical edge, linemate Tanguay marvelled at his captain's skating prowess.

"There were times we'd have no lane to pass and I'd tell him: 'Jarome, you're so fast. Keep going. I'll shoot it up the boards and you'll get there first','' he recalls.

"That's just a unique ability, shows what a great skater he was in a straight line, how fast, how intelligent, understanding those little plays.

"And even though sometimes he had two guys following him around, he was able to get his stick away for just that half-second to rifle a quick pass, one-time it.

"To be a great player, though, the skill set doesn't matter unless you've got the mindset that you're capable of doing it.

"Those are his two biggest assets, in my opinion. The belief that he was going to get the job done in every occasion, and then the will to do it, on every night.

"And he did, for the most part.

"Even today, when the legs maybe aren't quite what they used to be. I bet he could still score 25 on the powerplay being that Ovechkin type guy on the one-timer side.

"Because he's got that gift. It's in him."

The gift helped Iginla and his Flames to within a game of the 2004 title, of course. 

Tanguay lifted the Stanley Cup during his Avalanche days, partnering then with legends the likes of Sakic and Forsberg.
He doesn't believe a ring necessarily validates greatness.

"I know Jarome didn't win a Stanley Cup. But he came very close. And I think he possessed all the tools of the other guys - Peter, Joe - you mentioned.

"His desire, his determination to win, along with all his abilities, makes him one of that very exclusive group: A Hall of Famer."

At 41, Jarome Iginla is set to finally call it a career on Monday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

His old pal sends regards.

"He's a sure first-ballot, Hall-of-Famer type of guy,'' says Tanguay. "His shot was a good as anyone's in the last 15-20 years. Just a gifted all-around athlete.

"He had a great career. I wish we'd had more prime time together - when I came back for my second tour of duty in Calgary it was a few years later.

"It sure would've been fun.

"All I can say is that was a real pleasure to play with someone of that ability, that quality.

"Spectacular player, spectacular person."

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