Sharks Gameday: An Ode to Jarome Iginla

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7:30 PST
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21-20-5, 47 points 25-12-5, 55 points
12th in Western Conference 3rd in Western Conference

Television
CSN-CA
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Flames Nation
Matchsticks & Gasoline

I remember the days when Jarome Iginla would have a scrap, two assists, and a game winning goal in the third period to spark the Flames to a 3-2 road victory. The man was like clockwork, a legend that seemed destined for greatness the moment he slipped into that blood red Flames jersey in 1997.

Iginla is one of those rare guys who was as universally adored by opposing teams as he is by his own, a player who broke racial boundaries by becoming the first black player to become Captain of an NHL team. He is an athlete that looks just as good in person as he does on paper, a man that will go down as one of the greatest players I have had the pleasure to see play during my hockey watching career.

A class act through and through.

That smile, which lit up hundreds of bitter cold Calgary nights, was a beacon of hope for both the fanbase as well as the city that feels privileged to be called Jarome Iginla's home. His charity and philanthropic work is well-chronicled and utterly stunning, his work in the community unparalleled. In a sport where the athletes are some of the most humble, caring, and family-oriented people you can meet in professional sports, Iginla has inconceivably managed to stand out above the rest.

I've never had the pleasure to meet him nor have I ever watched him from the Red Sea where he is most beloved. One can only imagine how the stories of his triumphs are told in the bars around Calgary, where tales of his 50 goal seasons, Olympic Golds, and playoff wins come to life with deliberate hand gestures accompanied by a "yup" from around the table as everyone softly nods in agreement. Those quaint bars, with their signed jerseys and pictures on the wall, tell the story of his career that no highlight package or stat sheet will ever be able do justice.

That's where he was, is, and will be forever infinite. A player whose performances are only fully enjoyed with a few close friends and a few cold beers as the night begins to slowly creep towards last call.

Iginla has never had the chance to raise the Stanley Cup above his head, coming close in 2003-2004 before bowing out to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. He's never had a chance to play with an elite center, instead being paired with some average centerman for the majority of his career that he managed to almost single handedly carry to lofty heights. He's never had a chance to play with an offensive-minded coach, instead being stuck with fire and brimstone old school throwbacks that emphasized the other end of the ice every time he went out for a shift.

And yet he managed to score his 500th goal on January 7th, in front of a Saddledome crowd who has stuck with him through and through, cementing his place as one of the all-time beloved Flames the city will always look to when they need someone to carry the torch.

Iginla isn't the same player he used to be, nor is his future in Calgary set in stone-- with the Flames entering into rebuilding mode as they attempt to transition into another era, and the nights of a fight, 3 points, and a game-winner occurring further and farther in between, there's no telling what the future may hold.

Perhaps the acquisition of Michael Cammaleri indicates the franchise is able to take another shot at a playoff run, or perhaps not. Whatever what the case may be, congratulations are in order for a player who is one of the best role models in our beloved game.

501 goals and counting for one of the best of our generation.

Congratulations Jarome.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Goals by McGinn, Boyle, and Marleau.

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