Finally, Jarome Iginla has partners

Iginla, to no one's surprise, was a selection for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Iginla, to no one’s surprise, was a selection for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Illustration: Eric Barrow (Getty)

Like the American Football Hall of Fame, almost anyone enters the Hockey Hall of Fame. Play the league long enough, be nice to writers, and get any kind of reputation for bravery or toughness, and you will probably enter. What cheapens the entry of those who are really generational players. Those who deserve the eyes of the hockey world for them for a night or two.

On the other hand, Jarome Iginla is probably tired of being alone and can be happy to finally share a stage with players of his level. Which are rare.

It is hard to remember, or to think that Iginla played for five teams in her career. Because everyone will only think of Iginla not just as a Calgary Flame, but as THE Calgary Flames. And that’s not just because he was the best player in franchise history by a mile, or who became a mainstay in the community, or who is everyone’s favorite player in Calgary and everyone’s favorite player who doesn’t they played for the team they support. Without Iginla, the Flames would have been irrelevant for decades. It would be the Anaheim ducks or the Florida panthers or the Ottawa senators. When you say he was the team, it was because he had to do everything himself.

Iginla is the all-time leader of the flames in points and goals. Second in goals is Theo Fleury, who is 164 goals behind him. Fleury is also second in franchise history in points, 265 behind Iggy. To compound all of this, Iginla never regularly played with anyone else at the top of the list, until Mark Giordano ranked ninth during the last six of his 16 seasons in Calgary. To find a great franchise that was on the same line with him, you have to go to Craig Conroy (!) Ranked 22nd of all time. Putting “Craig Conroy” and “cool” in the same neighborhood requires multiple levers and torches.

The only Flames team, the only Iginla team, that got Iggy closer to a Cup was the 2004 version, and that’s a great example of how much Iginla and Iginla were alone. The powerful right back had 41 goals and 73 points that year. No one else on the team had more than 18 goals or 47 points. When Iggy scored another 50 goals in 2007-2008, the team’s next best forwards were Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow. Good players, but they wouldn’t be able to get close to Iginla’s level if you tied them to Voyager 2.

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Popular hockey loves to downgrade a player when he never won a Cup, the playoffs are viewed as a melting pot that only the truly great can navigate and those who don’t define themselves as lacking. Which makes it really fun when those people tell you that hockey is the ultimate team sport and that no one can do it alone. These things never have to fit in the mind of hockey.

But no one could hang the failure tag on Iginla. He was too good, too energetic. It rose above those labels. He was the definition of a power forward, and early in his career he had to be. Iggy came to the league in the depths of his Dead Puck Era, having to fight off talentless goobers who could only grab and grab and tackle and were never called upon to do so. Iginla accumulated 216 goals between 1998 and 2004, the absolute remnants of mud hockey, second only to Jaromir Jagr and Markus Naslund. Iginla not only had to fight through the trenches and cables of hockey grab-and-grab time, but he had to create and finish his own opportunities. What Russell Westbrook was doing during his MVP year, Iginla had to do on ice a decade or two earlier.

It wasn’t just that Iginla could run over three guys on her way to the net or dig in the corner while outnumbering herself before her hands took the score, or that her slap punch punched a hole in time itself. It was that he had to.

Defining Iginla only through her goals is not fair, because it does not convey the true strength that it could be. You can’t find a Flames fan who doesn’t have tears rolling down their faces as they remember “The Shift” from Game 5 in the 2004 Cup Final, which won it and gave the Flames a chance to win a Cup at home ( and some would tell you they did a lot) There is no better distillation of the pure power and fury with which Iginla played that turned each opponent into a simple stage and his teammates with a competing stone hand.

While the fight is now seen as a Neanderthalic anachronism, there isn’t a hockey fanatic who wouldn’t smile at the idea that Iginla could kick anyone’s ass eight times on Sunday with hardly a breath. We are a strange and meaningless group.

Iginla had to play with that sheer willpower, because without her there would be no one else. The Flames would have gone up the track every year if it hadn’t.

Iginla is more than a player for Calgary, of course. its charity work There he is known to all Calgary residents. The stories of the time he made for everyone are countless. You can’t find anyone who says a bad word about him. Iginla not only represented a team on ice. He embodied an entire city as a person.

He has two gold medals. He has two Rocket Richard trophies (most goals in one season) and one Art Ross Trophy (most points in one season). In the end, he finished with 625 goals and 1,300 points. Unfortunately, even after going after the penguins, Bruins, Avalanche, and Kings, you don’t have one of those. The reason why he won’t will be clear when he’s on the Hall of Fame stage. It will be the rare moment when he is among someone of his level.