The last time Jarome Iginla was hurt in a fight, it essentially cost the Calgary Flames a playoff spot.
Brace yourself Calgary: Iggy popped much more than Bryan Allen last night.
Responding to an innocent-looking hit on him -- as well as an earlier check that knocked Chuck Kobasew out of the game -- the Flames captain and hottest player in the NHL did what he does best: Lead.
In this case, it was with a goal and a ritualistic centre-ice fight with Allen that was well-discussed by the two after the defenceman hit Iggy along the boards and they skated up ice shedding equipment midway through the evening. Neither discarded his helmet, prompting Iginla to smash his fist against Allen's lid repeatedly while the crowd roared.
Chants of "Iggy, Iggy" that punctuated the fight gave way to a sombre buzz in the building when fans started noticing their leader had gone straight to the dressing room after serving his five minutes.
With team doctors tending to Iginla throughout the third period, Flames officials reported late in the evening Iginla had suffered a lower-body injury and wouldn't return. That's all they'd say. While press-time speculation swirled around a possible wrist injury, coach Jim Playfair would only say the injury didn't occur during the scrap. Replays showed a pre-fight hit along the boards by Allen, suggesting Iginla's left knee twist awkwardly.
Either injury is potentially devastating for one of the league's top snipers.
"You take one of the best players in the world out of any lineup -- how devastating is it?" pondered goalie Jamie McLennan.
"You don't want a guy with 55 points breaking his hand but that's Jarome -- you can't take that away from him. Iggy is a guy who is very resilient and hopefully he's not hurt too bad."
Locked in a tight battle for the West's final playoff spot, any sort of ailment to the team's heart and soul could seriously jeopardize the club's hopes of attending its third straight playoff party.
The last time Iginla was wounded in battle was eight games into the 2002-03 season when, in one of the priciest and most memorable fights in 'Dome history, he broke his finger fighting Bill Guerin. Although it never forced him to miss a game, the swelling was so bad he had to have his wedding band customized that summer to fit over his knuckle.
Coming off a career year in which he won the NHL scoring title with 52 goals and 96 points, he admitted at season's end the injury was to blame for his 67-point encore. He also said he regretted the fight as it likely cost his club a chance at breaking its seven-year playoff drought.
On a night when McLennan's first home start or Gary Roberts' last Calgary appearance was supposed to dominate, Roberts was a scratch and Iginla's departure stole the show. Ironic, as his first fight of the year appeared to be a highlight for most fans who adore Iginla for having the NHL's most complete package.
While questions surrounding his injury will dominate this morning's skate, there will be those who also have to ask if a tough guy in the lineup might have saved Iginla from having to shoulder the load most scorers abandon. Byron Ritchie had tried earlier in the night to exact revenge on Allen for the clean hit, only to earn himself a roughing minor.
Truth is, Iginla generally picks his spots well.
Last night it may have backfired. Either way, the damage is done.
And so could be the Flames' playoff hopes.