It’s always bittersweet when a marquee star who has played for only one team is traded away late in his career. It’s especially hard when it’s a class act like Jarome Iginla, who was the captain of the Calgary Flames and a symbol of the team and the city. Mr. Iginla was traded overnight on Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is where he deserves to be: on a team with a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
There are some who will unfairly knock Mr. Iginla for the fact he never led the Flames to a Stanley Cup victory. The first half of the 16 seasons he played in Calgary were among the worst in the franchise’s history, including a long stretch during which the team didn’t make the playoffs. But no single player can guarantee a championship, and the majority of NHL players never hold the cup. Mr. Iginla, who was born in Edmonton, stayed in Calgary during the bad years and became the leader of an underdog team that went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004 and was the division champion in 2006.
In 2003, Mr. Iginla became the second black man to captain an NHL team. He showed his leadership on the ice consistently throughout his career, scoring more than 30 goals in 11 straight seasons, a rare achievement. And, of course, he is cemented into Canadian legend as the player who dug the puck out of the corner and found Sidney Crosby in front of the net for the golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
But where Mr. Iginla has truly shown his leadership is the manner in which he has carried himself. Teammates and players on other teams often mention what a class act and true sportsman he is. Mr. Iginla has always been a modest, generous and grounded man, on and off the ice. In many ways he is reminiscent of another NHL great – Ray Bourque, who toiled selflessly for the Boston Bruins as captain for 12 seasons before he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche and helped that team win the Cup in 2001.
Now that Jarome Iginla is Pittsburgh, it will be tough for Canadian hockey fans everywhere not to root just a little bit for the Penguins this spring.