(Image courtesy of the Boston Bruins)
The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was announced today and to no one’s surprise Jarome Iginla was one of the inductees as a first-ballot entry.
The one-time Boston Bruins 30-goal scoring forward and member of the 2013-14 President’s Trophy-winning squad joins Marian Hossa Doug Wilson, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland as the individuals whose selections were announced today.
Iginla, who spent the bulk of his storied career with the Calgary Flames, could have been a Bruin for a little longer, as he was apparently traded to the team just before the 2013 trade deadline, but reportedly nixed the deal until the Pittsburgh Penguins put together an offer that he accepted. It was a bit of a crazy story, and the reality will always be known only to the primary players- Peter Chiarelli as then-B’s GM, Flames GM Jay Feaster and Iginla himself.
As you know, the Iginla-less 2013 Bruins instead acquired Jaromir Jagr from Dallas at the deadline and went on a run to the Stanley Cup final, coming up short in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Ironically enough, Iginla, whose trade to the Penguins at the time was widely hailed as the move that was sure to put the Pittsburgh offensive powerhouse of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin over the top, watched as the B’s swept the Penguins in four games of the Eastern Conference final. His output in the series…to quote the incomparable Dean Wormer from Animal House…Zero. Point. Zero.
A few months later, Iginla was wearing similar colors but traded the Penguin in for a spoked-B when he signed as a free agent.
I won’t lie- I was floored by the move. He was the one unrestricted free agent I was confident the B’s wouldn’t pursue after the trade fiasco, but Chiarelli and Co. torpedoed my ego and got him on a fun-now/pay-later contract that had a low base but easily attainable bonuses.
Iginla went out and hit just about every one of them, boosting his team-friendly deal of $1.8M in 2013-14 to another $4.2M in bonuses applied to Boston’s 2014-15 cap number for a total of $6M for his 30 goals and 61 points at age 36. The B’s could only watch helplessly as they landed in cap hell and Iginla signed an un-matchable $15.9M three-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014. His production steadily declined in all three years, and he finished out his NHL career with a late-season trade to the L.A. Kings in 2017.
“Iggy” is deserving of his place in the HHOF. He was a power forward who was among a new generation of players that took the mantle from Cam Neely, retired just one month before Iginla began his NHL career with the Flames as a 19-year-old rookie.
Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round (11th overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft out of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers after winning the 1994 and 1995 Memorial Cups. He had a dominant season in 1995-96, racking up 136 points, but was dealt to the Flames mid-season in a trade that sent former multiple 50-goal guy Joe Nieuwendyk to Big D. It was the proverbial trade that helps both teams- Nieuwendyk was a member of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team, and Iginla became Calgary’s franchise player.
Iginla was a member of Canada’s Olympic teams in 2002, 2006 and 2010, winning gold medals in 2002 and 2010.
The closest Iginla came to an NHL championship was in his prime during the 2004 playoffs when the Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning battled to the seventh game of a hard-fought series, but fell short. After a 41-goal season (he shared a second Richard Trophy with Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash), Iginla tallied 13 goals and 22 points in 26 playoff games that spring. He would not get out of the first round for the remaining four playoffs of his Flames career.
In 1554 career games, Iginla scored 625 goals and 1300 points. He was one of the faces of the NHL during his tenure. When he won the Art Ross and Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy in 2002, he was the first black player to win those major awards in the NHL.
Iginla was one of the very best in the game, and he was extremely popular during his one season in Boston. If only GM Harry Sinden had a crystal ball in his possession, the B’s could have drafted Iginla with the 9th selection in 1995 over defenseman Kyle McLaren, but at least fans can claim him as one of their own, albeit for a short period of time.
As the old saying goes, better late than never.
Congratulations Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla– HHOF Class of 2020.