SUN Hockey Pool

Iggy deal done a decade ago

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

It was 10 years ago today Jarome Iginla's professional hockey career took an unexpected turn.

The Kamloops Blazers star was at the world junior training camp in Moncton, NB., when he received an early morning phone call from a Team Canada coach. The news snapped Iginla out of his slumber.

In the middle of his best season with the Blazers, Iginla learned he had been traded to Calgary.

"At that moment, I was extremely disappointed," said Iginla, who thought he was joining the Calgary Hitmen, not the Calgary Flames. "It was just a split second but it made so many thoughts go through your mind.

"I was relieved when he said it was from the NHL."

The relief was followed by shock. Iginla was being shipped with centre Corey Millen for a Stanley Cup champion, Joe Nieuwendyk.

"He was such a good player, 50-goal scorer," said Iginla, an NHL 50-goal scorer himself in 2001-02. "It was a little overwhelming because you don't expect it. My thoughts were in junior. World juniors, Kamloops Blazers. I hadn't even thought of the big picture NHL."

The trade was controversial. It was considered a big risk for the Flames, swapping one of their top players -- disgruntled as Nieuwendyk was -- for an unproved talent.

Calgary's interim general manager Al Coates, however, wasn't worried. He felt he knew what he was getting in return and let Iginla know he was wanted by the Flames.

"I talked to GM Al Coates and I was excited," Iginla recalled, explaining the emotions at the time, wondering why he didn't meet Dallas' expectations but happy he was wanted by another franchise. "He said it wasn't that Dallas didn't want me. I can't remember the exact words but I remember that message coming across."

There's no doubt now, Calgary got a good deal. Iginla's current GM/head coach Darryl Sutter can vouch for that.

"He's a player that hasn't played his best hockey yet, put it that way," said Sutter of his captain, who has 530 points in 658 NHL games and has twice won the Maurice Richard Trophy for most regular season goals.

When Sutter took over as Flames head coach during the 2002-03 season, he knew he had a big piece of a potential championship puzzle in Iginla.

A decade after the trade, Iginla is a big reason the team has turned its once sagging fortunes into nightly sellouts. He is also considered one of the best players in the game after exhibiting dominant performances throughout the 2004 playoffs, when the Flames went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It goes so quick. It's been great," said Iginla of his time in this city. "I've been very, very blessed to come to Calgary. Got to play at a young age, got to play at 19 and got to play a lot over the years.

"It's been great but I'm looking forward to even better things here."


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