I'm not one to feel sorry for professional athletes who have multi-year, multi-million dollar deals to play the game they love. But something about the way Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla is being treated lately does not sit well with me.
Voted by other team captains as the NHL's best captain a few years ago, Jarome Iginla is on every GM's Christmas list. His powerful play, soft hand and hard shot only make up a fraction of the man that is Jarome Iginla.
Iginla was drafted in 1995 in the first round by the Dallas Stars, but he never played a game for them and was traded to Calgary where he remains still. He has more accolades and awards than one could count on both hands but some of the more respected including the Rocket Richard trophy in '02 and '04 and two Olympic gold medals in '02 and '10.
Since the beginning of his career, Iginla has donated $1,000 dollars (doubled to $2,000 in 2005) for every goal he gets to Kidsport, a non-profit charity that helps underprivileged kids get gear and ice time to play the sport of hockey and other.
He takes place in a yearly wheelchair hockey game against wheelchair-bound kids (about the only game he doesn't mind losing) and participates in the yearly Calgary Flames Celebrity Charity Golf Classic.
I've heard countless stories of Jarome Iginla going out of his way to sign autographs, but one stood out to me. A few years ago I read in a local paper about a couple of 20-something Flames fans having dinner out, when they spotted Iginla's trademark Cadillac Escalade.
They waited outside in the parking lot for him to emerge, but then decided not to bother him when he came out. He was having dinner with his family. Seeing the young men staring at him and pretty sure he knew they were too shy to ask, he pulled over next to them and offered them each an autographed Flames jersey. If that is not a class act, I dont know what is.
Only 13 games into the season, though, many of the Flames faithful would like to see him shipped out of town! Yes, he has had a bad start, as he always had. October has not been a good month to him, like in the '09-'10 season.
Then in November he was named the top player of the month. He has always been known to be a streaky scorer, potting goals in bunches, then going a few with none, but has contributed in many other ways. when Jarome is on the ice, he is generally covered by at least the opposing top defenseman, maybe even double-teamed, freeing up space for the rest of his line to get creative.
At the age of 33, though, there is no denying that his physicality is not what it used to be. Many think that he should follow in the footsteps of Steve Yzerman and adopt a more defensive role. When Yzerman did that, the wings won three Stanley Cups. (Though they did a guy named Sergei Federov in his prime.)
Only time will tell what role Jarome will take on as his career continues, but I do know one thing: When Jarome Iginla is on the ice, there is ALWAYS a scoring threat.
And to all the fans who want the team's mediocre performance put on his shoulders, remember that it IS a team game, and all 22 other players, and coaching management and even ownership have just as much of the onus on them.
All I know is that I feel bad for a man who was once called a hero in Calgary, now unable to even open a newspaper. I for one would like to see him net 500 goals in a Flame uniform.