Jarome Iginla's first skate of training camp lasted less than half an hour on Saturday as the Calgary Flames captain left the ice because of back spasms.
“Unfortunately, after I'd started a little bit, I had a little bit of a spasm there,” Iginla said. “It's nothing I haven't had before. I've had them during the season at different times.
“I thought it was better to be safe than keep aggravating it.”
At 34, Iginla is more cautious now about aches and pains.
“When you're younger, you'd push through it a little bit,” he said. “I'd push and you learn it probably causes more problems and lasts longer.”
Iginla, the Flames captain since the 2003-04 season, is the franchise player. So even a minor injury a few weeks before the regular season begins creates concern. Calgary opens the regular season on Oct. 8 against Pittsburgh.
The 6-foot-1, 204-pound right wing is the definition of hockey's power forward. Iginla uses his strength and power to break through checks and create space for his considerable playmaking and scoring skills. He is the Flames' career leading scorer and one of only 10 NHL players to net at least 30 goals in 10 consecutive seasons.
His offseason fitness and training goals have changed over the 15 years he has prepared for training camps. When it became clear after the lockout in 2005 that the game required faster skaters, Iginla dropped bulk to get lighter and quicker.
With 1,106 career games already on his resume, Iginla didn't make dramatic changes in the offseason. He instead concentrated on smaller goals.
“Most of my training was more geared toward skating and puck skills, just to keep trying to improve in those areas and be a more efficient skater, not really so much to be necessarily bigger or stronger,” he said. “Also to try to use a little bit of camp and work on being ready to go when the games start as opposed to necessarily the first day of training camp.
“I feel great. It sounds kind of funny when you skate the first day and don't finish it, but I do.”
This is an important season for Iginla as he tries to lead his team back to the playoffs after a two-year absence. It's become predictable that when the Flames struggle, trade rumors involving Iginla start to circulate.
Iginla is entering the fourth season of his five-year, $35 million contract that contains a no-movement clause. He will ultimately decide if he remains with the Flames for the remainder of his contract.