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Black History Month

Black History Month spotlight: Iginla strikes gold twice

Helps lift Canada at Salt Lake, Vancouver Olympics

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

As part of the NHL's celebration of Black History Month, NHL.com will highlight great moments and important figures in black hockey history each day throughout February. Pioneers like Willie O'Ree, Angela James and Grant Fuhr will be featured.

Today we look at Jarome Iginla, the first black hockey player to win an Olympic gold medal.

 

Jarome Iginla originally thought the call inviting him to Canada's orientation camp before the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics was from a friend pranking him. It wasn't.

Wayne Gretzky, his childhood idol and the team's executive director, was on the other end of the line. He invited Iginla because forward Simon Gagne was dealing with a shoulder injury and the coaching staff wanted to make sure there would be enough healthy players for scrimmages.

Not only was Iginla invited to camp, he made the team for Canada, which was hadn't won Olympic gold since 1952. But at age 24, he was among the team's youngest players, deferential to longtime members such as Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic.

After going 1-1-1 in group play, Canada won its quarterfinal and semifinal games. The reward was a game against the United States for the gold medal.

As it turned out, Iginla didn't need to defer to anyone. He was a big reason Canada's drought ended, scoring two goals with an assist in a 5-2 victory that made him the first black hockey player to win Olympic gold.

Eight years later, he won a second gold medal with Canada, this time with a 3-2 overtime win against the United States in the championship game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Crosby yelled "Iggy," and Iginla, who was being hauled down by a U.S. defenseman, still got a pass away from the boards to Crosby for one of the most famous goals in Canadian hockey history.

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