It would have been hard to imagine back in 1995 that Jarome Iginla would become the player that he has.
It was in December of that year the then 18-year-old was acquired from Dallas (with Corey Millen, remember him?) for star Joe Nieuwendyk.
Only Hall of Famer Al MacInnis had scored more points as a Flame at the time of the deal. Nieuwendyk was just 29 and had already netted 51, 51, 45, 45, 22, 38, 36 and 21 (in a 48-game season) goals his first eight full campaigns in Calgary.
That first 51-goal season broke Mike Bossy’s 10-year-old rookie record. Nieuwendyk was also a key contributor to Calgary’s lone Stanley Cup in 1989. He went on to play 11 more seasons, become the only player to win Cups with three different teams (Dallas and New Jersey) and was a two-time Olympian.
But Nieuwendyk was holding out for a better contract and already struggling with injuries. So on Dec. 19, 1995, the Jarome Iginla era began in Calgary.
Iginla finished his year in junior. He potted 63 goals and 176 points with the Western League’s Kamloops Blazers; starred for gold medal-winning Canada at the World Junior Championship, leading the tourney in scoring; then appeared in two playoff games for Calgary scoring two points.
Iginla broke into the NHL in ’96-97 and promptly finished second in the Calder Trophy voting as the league’s rookie of the year, an award Nieuwendyk had won nine years earlier.
But he was no Nieuwendyk.
At least not yet.
Four years later Iginla had his first 30-goal campaign and he hasn’t stopped.
The Flames captain potted No. 30 Sunday afternoon to make it 10 consecutive 30-goal seasons. That’s a feat only nine other NHLers have ever accomplished. Eight of those men are Hall of Famers, Jaromir Jagr will be when his career overseas ends.
But will Iginla?
He’s a four-time post-season NHL all-star, has two Olympic gold medals, a Lester Pearson Award, an Art Ross Trophy and a Hart Trophy. But was he ever the most dominant player in the game? Probably not.
Iginla has a good shot at reaching 500 career goals next season and could reach 1,000 points this season. He’s now Calgary’s all-time leader in both those categories and second in assists.
His numbers, as they stand right now, are borderline for Hall induction.
What sets Iginla apart, though, is his unfailing community work and all-around good guy-ness.
Through good times and bad ‘Iggy’ has stood up to be accounted for and done so, when appropriate, with a smile that lights up any room. He’s been he face of the franchise and an ambassador the city, the NHL and Canada can be proud of; he’s the kind of guy every parent wants their son to grow up and be like, hockey skills or no.
Tack on a few more seasons and Iginla’s numbers will likely be enough to make him a Hockey Hall of Fame player, but his work off the ice makes him hall of fame person right now.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.