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Jarome Iginla: The Pursuit of Greatness Sans a Championship

After 20 seasons in the NHL and international professional hockey, Jarome Iginla will be announcing his retirement on Monday July 30, 2018. Iginla was drafted No. 11 in the 1995 draft by the Dallas Stars, but played the majority of his career in Calgary with the Flames after a trade that sent him and Corey Millen there in exchange for Joe Nieuwendyk.

In 1,554 career games, Iginla amassed 625 goals and 1,300 points with the aforementioned Flames, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Los Angeles Kings.

The Elusive Stanley Cup

Despite playing in over 1,500 regular season games, 81 playoff games with three different teams and the fact that he could be considered one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL post expansion era, Iginla never achieved a player’s greatest success and that is to win the Stanley Cup.

The closest he came was in 2004 where he captained the Calgary Flames to the Stanley Cup Final to a seven-game series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and when ESPN still showed hockey. The brilliant offense displayed by Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Brad Richards along with great goaltending by Nikolai Khabibulin of Tampa Bay proved to be too much for the Flames, however, Iginla showed what it meant to lead his team during that series.

The NHL’s first black captain carried the Flames throughout 2003-2004 season as he finished with 41 goals, 73 points, and won two NHL awards that year. Calgary would go on to finish the season with 94 points.

In addition to winning the Maurice Richard Trophy twice, Iginla won the Art Ross Trophy, the King Clancy Trophy, the Messier Leadership Award, the Lester B. Pearson Award, and the Ted Lindsay Award too. He was selected to be an NHL All-Star six times, and became the 19th player to ever score 600 goals on January 4, 2016.

International Play

Early in his career, Iginla was a two-time gold-medalist with Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championships and represented Canada multiple times following his first 50-goal season including the World Cup of Hockey and the Olympics.

Iginla represented Canada in the Winter Olympics three times and won the gold medal twice-the first in 2002 in Salt Lake City and the second coming in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

He also represented Canada in the 2006 Turin Olympics where Canada failed to medal.

Superseding the Statistical Minutiae

The way Iginla carried himself on and off the ice became an exemplary demonstration of a consummate professional within professional sports and athletes in the limelight. On the ice, Iginla scored, played physically, and even dropped the gloves while being a mentor for former teammates like Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.

Off the ice, Iginla philanthropically donated his time and money to organizations like KidSport, the Jarome Iginla/Cassie Campbell Hockey School, the Diabetes Association, For the Love of Reading Fun, OXFAM Canada, and Doctors Without Borders among others.

Iginla is a shoe-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame despite never winning a Stanley Cup Championship because winning a championship is not ultimately definitive nor the only indication of greatness. It was the intangibles that defined Iginla’s greatness.

Iginla played the game with a passion that brought people to stadium seats, elevated the play of the teammates he played with and gave hockey fans outside of Calgary a reason to associate the city with things other than Lanny McDonald’s mustache, skiing, or Bret “the Hitman” Hart.

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