As Calgary’s Jarome Iginla hit the millenium mark in games played over the weekend, the Iginla talk on the FAN 960 has ramped up. So I thought it would be pertinent to look back and bring it all full circle when talking about the man to play all those games with one team.
I don’t remember the trade and in fact I don’t have a whole lot of recollection of Joe Nieuwendyk being traded to Dallas. But I can remember when Iginla made his NHL debut. I wasn’t a HUGE hockey junkie or anything like that, in fact really all I knew about hockey was what I got from my buddy’s NHL 94 on Sega Genesis.
I’d go over to his house 3 or 4 times a week after school, bust out some NHL 94, and usually get my ass whupped 6-0 because I could not figure out how to score. But the day after Iginla played his first game, a buddy of mine needed to create a player to put on the Flames. He didn’t know his name, only his nickname, so IGGY was the newest Flames player on the NHL 94 team.
Being that he scored his first goal in a playoff game, he must be pretty good right? Right, so we gave him 99’s in every category which we believed to be a spot on assessment of his skill.
Now its important to note that my hockey fever grew exponentially in the next few years. Hosting my first radio show on my tape deck, I made the executive decision to follow the Flames. After all, you can’t let down the "audience" right?
From Ken Wregget to Grant Fuhr and Fred Braithwaite, the Flames were a team that meddled from year to year, yet there remained a bright spot by the name of Iginla who shone brighter and brighter as the seasons wore on.
The 2000-2001 season was the first time I remember there being a real excited buzz around the guy. Iginla topped 70 points that year and potted 30 goals for the first time. But it the following 2001-2002 season when things all came together.
THE 2001-02 SEASON WHEN IT ALL CAME TOGETHER
A late addition to Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics, the 01-02 season vaulted Iginla past "good guy" all the way up to Superstar status and not just in my eyes with my burgeoning tape radio show but in the mind of more mature hockey experts as well. Iginla’s performance in Salt Lake brought him coast to coast accolades from Canadians nationwide, but it was his Flames season that resonated most with me.
Not only did he deserve to be on that team, it was his run to 50 (and eventually 52) goals that I’ll remember most. Peter Maher gave him the "Yeah baby!" when he hit 50 and his performance won him the Pearson and Richard trophies. But what sticks out to me most is that Hart Trophy snub at season’s end. If anyone not wearing a Habs jersey can explain to me how Jose Theodore has his name on that thing over Igninla I would certainly like to hear your argument.
But, alas, the past is the past.
AND NOW IS NOW
Iginla hit the 50 goal plateau again two years ago in Mike Keenan’s first year as head coach and followed that up with 89 points season last year. Yet the fact remains, a lot of talk lately on Overtime has caller and emailers saying "he’s on the way down, he’s not the same player, and the point totals bear that out." Granted, this season has not been great, his play has been too inconsistent, and Iginla would be the first to admit that.
But the point totals don’t lie and 94, 98, and 89 point campaigns in the past 3 seasons keep Iginla in elite company in the NHL. Yes, he was certainly streaky at times last year, but it’s still almost 90 points when you add up his efforts on the season.
To sum it up
Jarome Iginla is the only player in Calgary Flames team history to play 1000 games in a Flaming C and he’s 2 seasons removed from a career high in points. Is it maybe a bit premature for us to be talking about his demise and downward trend?
Maybe 99’s across the board doesn’t hold in NHL 2010 but I think it’s way too soon to be talking about the end of Jarome Igninla’s reign amongst the elite players in the NHL. But what do you think?
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