For over 16 seasons, Jarome Iginla has been the face of a franchise that has failed to win a Stanley cup, and while he quickly became a fan favourite and grew to become a veteran leader, both on and off the ice, his tenure came to an end with a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night.
Well before a trade was announced, rumours buzzed throughout the Scotiabank Saddledome and Twitter speculated Iginla’s departure. But something was already missing for players of the Calgary Flames — kept in the dark about every trade detail: their friend, teammate, and leader.
For the first time since April 2007, Iginla sat out as a healthy scratch despite a game at home to the Colorado Avalanche, ending his streak at 441 consecutive games played in a Flames uniform.
“It was surreal,” defenceman Mark Giordano said. “But we played hard and that’s all we were asking of each other, for Iggy.”
While the game seemed to be the last thing on the minds of a lot of people, on the ice, Calgary players recorded their eighth straight win at home with a 4-3 victory over Colorado.
It’s the overall team performance this season and for the last few, that ultimately played the biggest role in the trade. Calgary has lost 10 consecutive games on the road and sit 14th in the Western Conference with a 13-15-4 record through 32 games.
“We’re all very aware of what kind of business it is: ‘what have you done for me, lately?’ We haven’t been in the playoffs and the position we’re in now, nobody would call that ideal,” said Alex Tanguay, who’s played with Iginla during two separate terms with the Flames, from 2006-2008 and once again from 2010 to the present.
“I think this trade was forced by the situation. If we were standing in fourth, I don’t think we’d be unloading a player of his abilities, so obviously it’s caused by the team, but that’s part of hockey.”
Iginla, has led the Flames in scoring for 11 consecutive seasons — an NHL record — and Giordano emphasized post game, the urge to win against the Avalanche in his absence, knowing a trade was looming.
“It’s an eye-opener. As players, anytime you see a friend and a teammate going through anything like that, you feel responsible, you feel like you’re a part of it and we just tried to emphasize hard work and get a win,” Giordano said.
For some, like Mike Cammalleri, who has played 138 games as a teammate to Iginla, also during two separate stints in Calgary, it’s tough to imagine life without No. 12.
“It’s different, it’s weird, for sure,” Cammalleri said. “He’s been such a presence on this team, this city, and this organization for so long, he’s such a dominant player, and a guy that’s in the lineup all the time, not missing any games. So, it’ll be very different, without him.”
Tanguay was visibly sad post-game speaking to the media, despite a win in front of hometown fans, just sorry to see his friend go.
“You know, he’s a guy that, with what he’s done in this league, he’s kind of like Ray Bourque, who came to us around the same time in Colorado, and Jarome is that type of player,” Tanguay said. “He’s a Hall of Famer, he’s a guy that everybody looks up to, but I’m sure he’ll be a great influence for his new team and we wish him nothing but the best.”
And even without knowing where or when their friend and teammate was headed, Flames players felt the difference without their captain on the ice.
“There was definitely an emotion out there, whatever that emotion was from his absence, from the fans, the players, you felt it in the building, there was some emotion there, and I don’t know what it was,” Cammalleri said.
“Well, if he goes to the east and we play him the Cup final, I won’t be happy for him at all,” he joked, as rumours swirled but well before any trade had been officially announced by the Calgary organization.
“I wish him all the best, undoubtedly. For me personally, he’s a tremendous friend, a very close friend and I’ve learned a lot from him on and off the ice, hockey and non-hockey related. So, he’ll certainly be missed.”