A framed photo of himself and The Great One is a testament to how big a fan Edmontonian Jarome Iginla was.
Or maybe is, depending on whether or not his Calgary Flames are playing the Wayne Gretzky coached Phoenix Coyotes at the time.
"Everybody loved Wayne Gretzky who loved hockey," said Iginla yesterday before the Coyotes arrived in town for tonight's tilt at the 'Dome. "Everything he did on the ice, the way he handled himself."
Iginla, who some believe has inherited Gretzky's position as the face of hockey, still recalls fondly his first opportunity to play against his idol.
"It was my rookie year and I was very excited the Rangers were coming to town," said Iginla, who almost blew his chance to take the ice that night.
"I actually slept in," the Flames captain added with a laugh. "Back then, I liked to sleep a lot. I got up, no word of a lie I think it was 6:08 (p.m.), and we lived a little ways away. My roommates were trying to call but I didn't have a phone at my house."
With game time little more than an hour away, Iginla went into hurry-up mode.
"I remember looking at my clock. It was just the worst feeling in the world. This is the first chance I was going to get to play against Gretzky," Iginla said. "I made it to the rink in record time."
Then the question was whether or not Flames coach Pierre Page would let his late arrival suit up.
"Guys were already pretty far along," Iginla recalled. "I went in and talked to the coach. I'm very thankful he put me in."
Thankful may be an understatement.
"To play against a lot of guys you're fans of is exciting but that was another level. I got a picture hitting him in the boards," said Iginla before quickly adding a respectful correction to the statement. "Not hitting him, just up against him. I got that framed in my house. I don't have that of any other players, just him."
NYSTROM SENT DOWN: Rookie Eric Nystrom was returned to AHL Omaha yesterday after a brief stay with the Flames. Nystrom sat out as a healthy scratch Saturday and his locker-room stall was barren yesterday, assuring Jason Wiemer more playing time. Wiemer had four shots on goal Saturday and played a key role in the team's first goal on the powerplay. Coach Darryl Sutter said earlier Saturday he would do what's best for the young prospect, who was averaging about 11 minutes of ice time per game with the big club.