Jarome Iginla returns to Calgary tonight where he was a demi-god for 17 years as a Flame. The future Hall of Famer and greatest player who ever wore a Flames jersey is coming through town as a member of the Boston Bruins. Expect a standing ovation, Iggy. A long one. Returning icons are treated with nothing less.
The Flames organization will surely pull out all the stops with a lengthy video tribute and a few speeches for Calgary’s longest serving captain. Someday, perhaps even tonight, Iginla’s No. 12 will be retired by the Flames, joining Lanny McDonald’s No. 9 and Mike Vernon’s No. 30. (Al MacInnis’ No. 2 is ‘honored’ by the team.)
We’ve seen a few of these return-to-roots games already this season. Philadelphia’s Vincent Lecavalier returned Nov. 27 to Tampa Bay, where he spent the first 1,037 regular season games of his NHL career. Detroit’s Daniel Alfredsson returned Dec. 1 to Ottawa, where he spent the first 1,178 regular season games of his career.
Iginla spent the first 1,219 regular season games of his career as a Flame. His return to Calgary tonight marks the fourth longest career in which a player returns to the city where he started his career. (See top 10 list at bottom of post.)
When Iginla was traded to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last season, I went on record saying I wasn’t crazy about the return the Flames got back. Nor was I impressed with how the deal unfolded. If Iginla gave Calgary GM Jay Feaster a list of four teams he’d be willing to accept a trade and waive his no-trade clause, I believed that’s where the input should have stopped.
But Feaster apparently worked out a deal with the Bruins, then went back to the Iginla camp to get final approval. At that point, Iginla made it be known he preferred Pittsburgh as his destination of choice. We all know what happened then.
I didn’t like how Iginla handled that and I thought Feaster and the Flames were being too accommodating. But that’s water under the bridge tonight.
And what about what the Flames got in return? The three prospects are working their way through Calgary’s system.
• Right winger Ben Hanowski, 23, graduated from St. Cloud State and made a five-game debut with the Flames late last season (one goal). He has been productive with powerhouse Abbotsford of the AHL this season (nine goals and 20 points in 26 games) and is working on his foot speed. He has second-line upside if he can score at the next level, but more than likely is suited as a support player on the bottom-six. Expect him to get a late season recall if or when the Flames trade pending UFA forwards Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan or Lee Stempniak.
• Winger Ken Agostino, 21, is in his fourth year at Yale and after a slow start is now leading the team in scoring with three goals and 10 points in 12 games. The Bulldogs aren't doing that well, so look for the Flames to sign Agostino after the ECAC season ends in late March and assign him to the AHL Heat for an extended playoff run.
• And with the first round pick Calgary got from Pittsburgh, the Flames selected left winger Morgan Klimchuk from the WHL Regina Pats 28th overall. He’s scoring at about the same pace as his draft year (12 goals and 29 points in 26 games), but is sidelined with an injury sustained in the Subway Super Series in November. He was a candidate for Canada's world junior team, but didn't get an invitation earlier this month to make the final roster. Klimchuk, 18, still has another year of major junior after this season.
Here’s a top 10 list of players who started their career with one team, then returned to that city as a member of another NHL team.
1. Gordie Howe, Detroit, 1,687 games, then Hartford
2. Ray Bourque, Boston, 1,518 games, then Colorado
3. Mike Modano, Dallas (Minnesota), 1,459 games, then Detroit
4. Jarome Iginla, Calgary, 1,219 games, then Boston
5. Larry Robinson, Montreal, 1,202 games, then Los Angeles
6. Tim Horton, Toronto, 1,184 games, then N.Y. Rangers
7. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa, 1,178 games, then Detroit
8. Harry Howell, N.Y. Rangers, 1,160 games, then Oakland
9. Brian Leetch, N.Y. Rangers, 1,129 games, then Toronto
10. Bryan Trottier, N.Y. Islanders, 1,123 games, then Pittsburgh
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN