All Flames Go Out Eventually
When Jarome Iginla wasn't breaking an unlucky opponent's face, he was breaking barriers and records in the NHL. One of the most impactful athletes to ever lace them up, Iggy officially announced his retirement on Monday afternoon.
Growing up in the 80's, it was uncommon to find black youth interested in Hockey. Iggy's primary sport was Baseball where he displayed a lot of promise as a catcher. In 1992, the same year he led the midget hockey standings, Iginla represented the St. Albert Cardinals at the Canadian National Bantam Baseball Championships. He excelled in the tournament, earning a position on the All-Star team and even batted .400 on 20 at bats. However, growing up in the Edmonton area during the 80's and witnessing the Oilers dynasty win 5 cups in 6 years will captivate any Canadian child of any race. Especially when a significant piece of that dynasty was of the same heritage of you with a similar pedigree -- such as Grant Fuhr.
Grant Fuhr set the bar for black hockey players, and Iggy came in and raised it. Fuhr was the first black hockey player to ever win a Stanley Cup and was the first to join the Hall of Fame. Fuhr's prolific presence in the league inspired many, especially Jarome Iginla. He had Iggy in pads between the pipes up until he was 10 years old, when he finally decided to jump on the wing -- and the rest is history.
After banging it out in the late 90's with the Flames, he really started to find his niche in the 2000's when he earned a spot on Team Canada at the 2002 Olympics. After winning gold in Salt Lake, he became the first black athlete ever to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. He continued his barrier-breaking season, finishing the year with 52 goals and 96 points. His brilliance earned him the Maurice Richard trophy for the NHL Player with most goals and the Art Ross Trophy for most points, becoming the first black hockey player to ever earn those accolades. After dominating the 01-02 campaign, the players voted Iggy as most valuable player of the league and he became the first black hockey player to win the Ted Lindsay award.
Similar to Fuhr, Jarome's impact had a domino effect with black youth and some of them took to twitter to express their gratitude.
Another Edmonton native with African heritage, Tyrell Goulbourne of the Philadelphia Flyers reveals his inspiration and what Iggy meant to him.
And Evander Kane, who not only shares the same background but shares a nearly identical playing style, gave his praise.
The 6x All-Star's impact on the game and on Canadian children didn't stop there. When Iggy dropped number 24 for 12 in the 1997 season, number 12 became an increasingly popular pick for local minor hockey league legends who attempted to emulate Jarome's hard-nosed playing style.
Iggy's versatility made him one of a kind. When Calgary was looking for that big goal, big hit or big fight, Jarome wanted to be that guy, and most of the time he was.
One of the most memorable captain vs captain fights of all time. Game 3, series is tied 1-1 and Iggy and Vinny throw down in the first period. Even Torts can be seen applauding that tilt at the end of the video. After wiping the floor with Lecavalier, the Calgary captain would go on to complete the Gordie Howe hatty with a 2-1 win.
Calgary ended up losing a fierce game 7 and Iginla never got to win a Stanley Cup after that. Although, he did play a significant role in his 3rd winter Olympics in 2010. He assisted the Golden Goal to bury the Americans in Vancouver. A top 5 moment in Canadian sport history.
Iggy was world class on the ice, and by all reports, even more so off the ice. He was truly the epitome of Canadian Hockey and it's nearly impossible to think of the Calgary Flames without picturing Iggy wearing that flaming c.
Congrats on a special career, Iggy!
Next stop, the Hockey Hall of Fame.