I have had the good fortune of covering hockey for a living for 32 years and I can honestly say, I have not met a nicer, more genuine person in the game than Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Don’t get me wrong; I have met plenty who would give him a run for the money, but nicer? Not a chance.
So when Iginla broke the club record with his 365th goal the other night, topping Theo Fleury’s mark, I have to admit I was a little tickled. As a journalist, I have been told I am not supposed to pick favorites. And for the most part, I stick to that theory. But, come on, you meet a young man like Iginla and you can’t help but be moved. He is polite, very understanding of the job journalists have to do, and on top of that, he is one heck of a hockey player.
In fact, there was a point this season when I had Iginla penciled in as the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. Given the play of New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo, along with Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and Tampa Bay Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier, he faces some tough competition for the award.
That doesn’t mean he won’t win it. A strong finish just might sway the votes his way.
Thus far, the Flames remain right in the thick of things in the Western Conference. Wednesday night’s loss to Washington and Thursday’s loss to Atlanta doesn’t help matters, but the reality is, the Flames – when they are on their game – stand as good a chance as any team in the West to make it to the final. Imagine, two trips to the Stanley Cup final in four seasons.
If they do, I have a vision of Iginla being presented the Stanley Cup and raising it over his head. To me, the West is significantly stronger than the Eastern Conference and unless they beat the daylights out of each other en route to the final, I imagine it will be a Western team taking home the Cup.
Imagine, Jarome Iginla – the face of the Calgary Flames – sets a team record for most career goals and then brings home the Cup. Sound a little bit like a Hollywood ending? It sure does.
And I can tell you this, there are plenty of people in the hockey world who would love to see Iginla’s name on the Cup.
This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.
Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.
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