Just by looking at Jarome Iginla you wouldn’t know he is in the midst of his 21st NHL season because he still has that infectious smile at age 38 that all hockey fans came to know during his 20s with the Calgary Flames. With that longevity has come a lot of goals; a lot. Five hundred and ninety-seven of them at the present moment. There have been over 5,000 players that have suited up in at least one NHL game and only eighteen of those players have reached the 600-goal plateau; so it’s safe to say that what Iginla is on the verge of should maybe be creating more attention than it seems it has at the moment.
He is without a Stanley Cup, but is a two-time (2002, 2010) gold medal winner with Team Canada at the Winter Olympics and is surely a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer once he retires from the league. In his breakout season in the league in 2001-02 he finished with 96 points (52g-44a) while capturing the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Pearson trophies while also becoming a household name in the NHL world. Iginla is now in his second season with the Colorado Avalanche, which still seems weird to say (type) after so many seasons with the flaming C on his chest, and is enjoying the game more than ever playing with such young and talented players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon.
This season his 16 points (8g-8a) ranks fourth on the team – just below the aforementioned trio of talent, but the team as a whole has not had a good start to the 2015-16 season and are already battling for their playoff lives in the rugged Western Conference. Playing better of late, the Avs won games in New Jersey and Madison Square Garden by identical 2-1 scores as they got back to basics. The Hockey Writers had the pleasure of talking to Jarome Iginla following the win at Prudential Center to find out how much he thinks about that 600-goal plateau, what it was like to be the captain in Calgary and a little info on a team he is an owner (minority share) of; among other things.
The Hockey Writers: Last night your team blew a lead and lost to the Islanders; how were you able to rebound and win tonight in New Jersey?
Jarome Iginla: It’s a big win for us, not letting that loss linger. This is the way we need to play to climb back into things. It gives us a chance to win two out of three (on this trip). Being on a back-to-back, playing New Jersey at home…they’ve played well this year, they played well tonight I thought. They had some real good push in the third (period), but it’s a really big win for us because we have some ground to make up.
“Jarome is one of my closest friends; he’s probably one of the guys I’ve learned the most from in my career, if not the most. He just has this tremendous passion for the game and commitment to the game. He was special; to play with him, alongside him, watch him do things the way he does them — at a high level. Like I said, he’s a close friend; you root for him.” — Devils’ winger Mike Cammalleri
THW: Personally, you’re approaching the 600-goal milestone (currently with 597 goals). Do you ever stop and think ‘there are only 18 players who have ever played this game with at least 600 goals’? Or are you so in the moment, mentally into the season, that you don’t focus on that?
JI: A little bit of both. I do think it’s pretty cool; pretty surreal (grins) because if you would have told me that when I was starting out my first couple of years, I don’t think I would have believed that. At the same time, like you said, you are in the moment, just trying to play, contribute to the team. Play the same way (you usually do). I’m not thinking, ‘this could be 597. this could be 598.’ But in saying that, (smiles) once I hopefully get to 599 soon it will probably be on my mind when I am shooting (that this one could be no. 600). It’s easier when you’re not thinking about it, but it’s easier said than done.
THW: 597 is a lot of goals, do you remember your first NHL goal?
JI: My first goal? Absolutely (huge grin). I scored on Kirk McLean for my first regular season goal (second regular season game); it was a two-on-one, backdoor, I got a great pass from Corey Millen. It was just a tap in, backdoor (for me). I was pretty excited because I hadn’t scored in I think eight of the preseason games prior to that (and one regular season game). I was pretty pumped for sure.
THW: You have the puck still?
JI: Oh yeah (said with a “Whatchu Talkin’ Bout Willis?” look)!
THW: You were with the Calgary Flames for a long time (parts of 18 seasons) how much did it mean to you to be the captain of that franchise (for ten seasons)?
JI: It’s definitely an honor, I was fortunate to play there for a long time; I had a lot of great memories and great experiences playing around the league. It’s definitely an honor and there’s a little bit more responsibility that goes with it. As a player it’s nice to have a little bit of that — as a leader, your vested in the relationship (with the team) and with the coach, you try to have a good relationship with him. Different ideas, talking about and to players, let them know how it’s going. You learn as it goes and it was a great experience. I had some great captains in my time, that I played with; guys that you might not, that maybe weren’t well known leaders. You try to learn from them and I enjoyed that experience (when I had my time) for sure.
THW: Since you left Calgary, with Pittsburgh, Boston, and now with Colorado, do you still take on some responsibility as an older, veteran player/voice in the room?
JI: You do; I think as you get older everyone gains more experience obviously, but you also get more comfortable with the style, the players. You’re all part of the same team and pushing in the same direction. You get more comfortable talking about those things. I think it’s part of the responsibility too, as an older player or a captain, to share some of that experience and different ideas when you see things that could maybe help certain guys. A lot of young guys help me with some things like how to score, where to go at different times of the game when you are trying to learn about each other, or how to look at goalies. Different things like that, I think it’s part of the privilege and responsibility to be able to share some of that stuff.
THW: One of the fascinating things about your career is your durability; in 21 NHL seasons you’ve never played in less than 70 games during a full season. Is that a testament to you doing the right things on and off the ice and also your work ethic, keeping yourself in great shape?
JI: I think it’s a combination of all of that, sure. First of all of been very blessed and very lucky, fortunate too. But also yeah, you try to stay in shape. You look at some of the freak things that happen (in our game) and a lot of it is that I’ve been able to be lucky and fortunate; but I also try to do my part with working out and doing the right things.
THW: A lot of people may not know this, but since 2007 you have been part owner (along with Shane Doan, Daryl Sydor & Mark Recchi) of the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL. Can you tell the fans a little bit about that?
JI: I’m a pretty quiet owner, but it is pretty cool. I had the chance to play there (1993-96), being an alumni; it’s a great hockey town, great hockey city and there is a lot of tradition there. I don’t have a lot of say in the day-to-day stuff, but I watch them as a fan and it’s nice to see when they get on a roll, when they win. We have our old coach and old GM back, and they are doing well; I think the city is enjoying that. You do feel pressure, because you do want it to be successful for the city and the team and the guys. And you want it to be well-run because as an organization you have these young guys that you want to help, point them in the right direction. Not just for hockey, yes help them follow their dreams but also if it’s after, to pick up some good life skills in whatever they choose to do. I do feel some pressure to try to make it run (well) because it was run great when I was there and I learned a lot.
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.