Connect with us

Calgary Flames

Small moments just as important to Iginla’s Hall of Fame legacy

Published

on

Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla

Most stories about Calgary Flames legend Jarome Iginla are well-known. Big moments on the ice and heartfelt gestures off it.

He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night because of the big moments. Iginla was a notoriously tough, tenacious, and talented winger. He played in the NHL for 20 seasons – 16 with the Flames – and was one of the last true power forwards in the game.

He could do it all, with a heavy, accurate shot, a physical presence and no fear of dropping the gloves to get some juice flowing for his teammates.

For that, his No. 12 jersey already hangs in the rafters at the Saddledome in Calgary.

Gold medals in the Olympics and world championships, both as a junior and as an adult. The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, King Clancy Memorial Trophy, Mark Messier Leadership award and NHL Foundation Player Award.

He carried the Flames on his back during the 2004 Stanley Cup run and nearly won the Calgary Flames franchise its second championship. A dominant goal-scorer and underrated passer, his most famous assist came on Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal for Team Canada in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Iginla’s kindness has become legendary

Iginla is also a guy who bought a hotel room for a bunch of Canadians who had no place to stay during the Salt Lake City Olympics.

He’s someone who made sure every minute he could spare after a game – at home or away – was spent signing autographs for fans. He did a million little things that were as meaningful as his 662 NHL goals.

You’ve heard or read many tales about Iginla this week as he enjoyed the HHOF events in Toronto. So instead of rehashing all of them, I reached out to a few of the people I was elbow to elbow with in the scrums while covering Iginla during his time with the Calgary Flames.

For those lucky enough to experience what it was like to be around the genuinely gentlemanly NHL superstar on a daily basis, the memories come back easily. They’re personal, because Iginla made you feel like the relationships were personal. He asked questions of the questioners because he was interested.

When I went away for a couple of weeks in March of 2011, he noticed I was gone. We hadn’t previously talked about why I’d be gone or where I was going. I returned during a road trip and he’d clearly done his homework. He congratulated me on getting married and as he unlaced his skates, and we chatted about our similar experiences getting hitched in destination weddings.

All the smaller moments, just connecting with others, seemed just as important to Iginla as the big ones.

Making the time to ensure young fan meets hockey hero 

Scott Cruickshank covered Iginla for two years in Kamloops for the Kamloops Daily News, then in Calgary for the Calgary Herald from 2000-13. One of those small moments of meaning took place outside Father David Bauer Arena after an off-season skate in 2002.

“Getting into his car, he noticed a man and his daughter standing at the far side of the building. The young girl was wearing a Flames jersey with No. 12 on the back,” recalled Cruickshank.

“Because the two fans had been staring intently at the entrance (as they waited for you-know-who), Iginla could have easily departed unnoticed. Nope. He closed his car door, walked across the parking lot, tapped the man on the shoulder. Then he introduced himself — yes, offering his first and last names — and asked them how their day was going.”

That’s Jarome Iginla for you.

“With father and daughter too stunned for words, it was left to Iginla to carry the conversation,” said Cruickshank. “Which he merrily did.”

Iginla had no idea Cruickshank was nearby to witness the act of kindness. Hundreds more likely took place.

Shoulder tap became a dressing room tradition 

The tap on the shoulder Iginla gave to the father of the young fan is something sportswriters experienced over the years, too.

Randy Sportak, who covered Iginla’s entire career in Calgary for Sun Media, still remembers getting one of those taps after a scrum during the 2004 playoffs.

The Calgary Flames had just lost to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2, and Iginla hadn’t had much success in the opening games of that series.

“I asked him whether he felt he had done enough in the first two games, but it was poorly worded — more blurted out in my usual ham-handed delivery,” remembers Sportak. “Immediately, I blanched at how I asked that question. Jarome’s response was along the lines of, ‘We’ll, no points, two shots on goal. I’m guessing it’s not enough.’ ”

Iginla shows concern after look of horror on reporter’s face

“He saw the look on my face, but it had nothing to do with his response – more my poorly worded question. A few minutes after his scrum broke up, I was at the opposite end of the dressing room and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Jarome.”

Iginla apologized to Sportak for his answer. He said was intended to be lighthearted but didn’t come across that way.

“I saw your face when I was answering your question,” Iginla said. “I’m sorry I embarrassed you in front of everyone.”

Let that sink in. The Flames lost a playoff game and answered every difficult question – even the ones that were poorly worded – and then sought out a reporter because he was worried that he offended him.

“I let Jarome know I was more disappointed with myself with how I asked the question. But I truly — to this day — appreciated how genuinely concerned he was that he embarrassed me in front of all the other media.”

That’s especially impressive when you consider Iginla’s every performance was critiqued with no mercy.

Iginla was always the bigger person.

Competitive golf game another example of Iginla being the bigger person

Longtime Calgary Sun columnist Eric Francis once got the shoulder tap after a scrum so large prevented him from getting anywhere near Iginla on the night. Jarome made sure to ask him later if he got what he needed.

But in the spirit of always being the bigger person, it’s an offseason golf game in Kamloops with Iginla and former Calgary Flames teammate Chuck Kobasew that stands out.

His NHL career and all the other stories you’ve read and heard offer plenty of examples of how competitive Iginla is. Not just at hockey, but ping pong, board games, and spontaneous wrestling matches.

Golf games usually had something extra on the line.

He introduced Francis to a game called Vegas and after shanking a ball out of bounds on the first tee, Francis found himself behind pretty quickly.

“I thought it was going to be the most expensive round of golf of my life,” laughed Francis, there to pen an offseason lifestyle story on Iginla.

An unexpected act of kindness on the greens

Fortunately, Iginla had a tough hole and Francis saw a chance to decrease his debt.

“He’s a proud guy and it’s one of these holes where he really just wanted to pick up the ball. He’d hit a couple out of bounds and was on the brink of a seven or eight,” said Francis, who explains he could have eased the pain by telling Iginla to pick up his ball on the green.

“He’s got about a four-foot putt and I’m thinking every stroke costs money. He blows the four-footer by about seven feet, downhill. I was originally going to give him the next one if he missed. But instead, now he’s got a seven-footer and I suddenly get lockjaw and decide I’m not giving it to him.

“Before he putts, he looks up at me. He doesn’t say a word, he just kind of looks up at me like, really, you’re going to make me putt this? I don’t know what made me say it, but I said, ‘It’ll be good for your confidence.’

“And he made it.”

The situation was later reversed, with the Calgary Flames legend in the power position.

“Near the end of that round, I’m having a couple of bad holes,” said Francis. “I had longish putts in front of me.”

If you think this story ends with Iginla telling Francis to putt because it would be good for his confidence, you haven’t been paying attention.

“Jarome said, ‘Pick it up,’ ” said Francis. “He’s such a classy guy. He could have really stuck it to me the way I stuck it to him, but he was the better man.”

Always the better man.

Welcome to your new home for Calgary Flames breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to CHN+ for all of our members-only content the entire Calgary Hockey Now crew plus an ad-free browsing experience.

Get Calgary Hockey Now in your inbox

Sign up to get the best Calgary Flames news, opinion and analysis sent directly to your inbox every day.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.