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Classy, Hard-Working Jarome Iginla Deservingly in Rarified Air After 600th Goal

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistJanuary 5, 2016

Colorado Avalanche right wing Jarome Iginla holds up the puck in the locker room after he scored his 600th career goal in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. Colorado won 4-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

DENVER  Only 18 people in the history of the NHL know the feeling Jarome Iginla had Monday night. One of them was in the same building when it happened. That would be his friend, his boss and his former Canadian Olympic linemate, Joe Sakic.

Sakic was only too happy to make room for one more in the ultra-exclusive 600 Goal Club, especially on a night Iginla's milestone goal helped his Colorado Avalanche beat a red-hot Los Angeles Kings club, 4-1, at the Pepsi Center. 

"I think 500 goals is still kind of the magic number for players," said Sakic, the Avs' general manager, who scored 625 goals in a Hall of Fame career, "but 600 means more. Not too many players have done that."

Iginla became the 19th to do it, and it's just the latest accomplishment on a resume that will act as an express ticket to the Hall of Fame some day. And who cares if it was a goal that actually was intended to be a pass? At his usual post in the left circle on the power play, Iginla fed a puck across the middle intended for Matt Duchene, but the pass went behind him. The disc instead ricocheted off the skate of defenseman Jake Muzzin and past backup goalie Jhonas Enroth. 

A few years from now, nobody will care that 600 was an errant bank shot instead of one of the many Iginla one-timers that puffed the backs of nets like Louis Armstrong's cheeks on the trumpet.

"You gotta get lucky sometimes," Iginla said in the victorious dressing room, with the puck already wrapped in tape in his locker. "That was definitely one of the lucky ones, but I'm not too picky. I'll take it."

We may have witnessed the last of the 600-goal scorers for quite a while. The leading active goal scorer behind Iginla is Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who entered Tuesday with 496. Behind him is Marian Hossa at 491. After that there is Patrick Marleau (470), Vincent Lecavalier (411) and Patrik Elias (407).

Ovechkin will likely get there, but there is no guarantee, and there is little chance for the others. Even a guy like Sidney Crosby, at 313, seems like a long shot now in today's lower-scoring NHL. 

"I think it'll definitely be tougher to get to 600 in the future, with the way the game is now," Sakic said.

Darryl Sutter saw Iginla score a lot of his goals, as his former coach and GM with the Calgary Flames. The Kings coach doesn't like to lose, but if there was one guy he could make an exception for to say nice things about after a loss Monday, it was the man he calls "Iggy."

CALGARY, CANADA - DECEMBER 17:  (L-R) Kristian Huselius #20, Jarome Iginla #12, Head Coach Darryl Sutter and Daymond Langkow #22 of the Calgary Flames look on from the bench during their NHL game against the Boston Bruins at Pengrowth Saddledome on Decemb
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

"Just a real hockey player, Jarome," said Sutter, which is as good as it gets from him as far as praise. "When you put it in perspective, 600 goals, that's over 30 a year on average for as long as he's been in the league (this is his 19th season). It's pretty spectacular when you think about it."

Sutter saves his biggest respect for the workers of the game, the guys who put in the time on and off the ice for the best chance to succeed. He always saw that in Iginla, whose offseason workouts near his summer home in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia have passed into legendary status

"You look at him out on the ice this morning and how hard he trains; he's probably got another 100 in him if he wants it," Sutter said. 

Another one of Iginla's former coaches, Calgary's Bob Hartley, was in the game before at the Pepsi Center. 

"He is a very class man. I don't want him to do it against our team, but I'll be rooting for him right after that," Hartley said. "He is a credit to the game."

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Now that Iginla has reached 600 goals, the attention will turn to an accomplishment that's eluded him his whole career: a Stanley Cup. 

Iginla has another year remaining on his contract, a three-year, $16 million, no-movement-clause deal he signed after leaving the Boston Bruins in 2014. There were some who scoffed at Sakic for giving that third year on the deal, and at such an overall salary to a guy said to be slowing down. But Iginla led the Avs in goals last season with 29, and while his scoring pace is down some this year (11 goals in his first 40 games), he has always been known as a strong second-half player.

The Avs sat only four points out of a wild-card spot, behind Nashville, after the win over L.A. Iginla told Bleacher Report in November that he would not waive his no-movement clause this season, citing family reasons and the belief Colorado can be a winner.

After a dismal start, the Avs have been playing pretty good hockey for a while now. Iginla wants to be a part of a strong playoff push.

"We've got a lot of real important games coming up, starting with Wednesday against St. Louis," Iginla said. "We feel like we can compete with anyone when we're playing like we can."

Iginla still doesn't have a Stanley Cup in his trophy case. But he does have a puck with a number etched in magic marker on masking tape that not many can also claim to have.

"600 feels pretty cool," he said.

Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @Adater 

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