Flames' milestone man

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Tonight's milestone isn't about goals.

But the soon-to-be longest-serving Calgary Flame seems to remember every one of the 337 he's scored over 803 regular-season games.

Against the Anaheim Ducks tonight, Iginla will pass Al MacInnis for top spot in games played wearing the Flaming C.

Iginla has spent more than a decade as a member of the Flames, but still recalls his first regular-season contest as if it was yesterday.

"I remember it clearly. We played in Vancouver. I'm pretty sure we lost 3-1," said Iginla this week. "I got my first goal that game. I got the goal on a 2-on-1 pass from Corey Millen (who coincidentally came over from the Dallas Stars along with Iginla's rights in the deal for Joe Niewendyk)."

Asked how he has such clarity for something that took place in 1996, Iginla made a confession.

"I remember most of my goals." he said, bursting into laughter. "Let's be honest."

A brief good-natured ribbing of confirmation from his good friend and linemate Craig Conroy followed.

"He knows them all," teased Conroy. "Every hat-trick ... every one."

And there are a lot of them. Theoren Fleury's franchise goal mark is within Iginla's sights.

Just 27 more tallies and Iginla will take over top spot in that category, too. He's also 133 points shy of Fleury's points mark.

As much as Iginla loves to score, he admits the 804th game is a milestone as close to his heart as those who root for the Flames hold their captain.

"It's a special one," he said. "To be with the organization that long.

"To think of the different times, the difficult times through rebuilding and missing playoffs, I really wanted to be here to make the playoffs the first time after being out so long. Thankfully, I was. They've had the confidence to keep me."

Iginla now wants to reward the franchise.

"I really want to be here to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "That's my goal."

It's not in Iginla's nature to take too much time to think about the magnitude of his achievements.

Mention his status as the face of the franchise, and he quickly changes the subject to his desire to make it a championship one.

He's as humble as he was entering the league on a full-time basis back in 1996-97 -- with just two surprise playoff games under his belt from the previous spring and an honest feeling of uncertainty he'd even make the team after struggling in the pre-season.

"I had a tough pre-season. I think I had one assist in eight games.

"I was happy to make the team. I wasn't sure," recalled Iginla, again referencing his regular-season debut.

"I felt like it was a pretty good game. It was a confidence builder."

His confidence would take another leap a few seasons later. It was during the 1999-2000 campaign -- a 29-goal, 63-point year -- Iginla started to believe what Fleury used to tell his young teammate was possible: That he'd be the best player in the league one day.

Iginla modestly shook his head back then.

Still earnest, he admits his aspirations morphed over the years.

"It was a goal to become an elite player in the league, but it took a long time to believe I could get there," said Iginla.

"I think a breakthrough, personally, was one year when I think I had a 16-game point streak. I played with Savvy (Marc Savard) and (Andrei) Nazarov. Things were starting to gel for the first time, where you go in and you actually think you can have a big impact.

"I remember sitting at home once and watching TSN or whatever ... I think it was after the all-star break, they said who's had the most points after the all-star break. I was on the same thing as Modano and Jagr at the time. It was a huge boost to my confidence."

With another five years on his latest contract, which includes a no-trade clause, the benchmark will rise and Iginla likely will join an exclusive club of players to reach 1,000 games with one team.

He doesn't strive to be another Steve Yzerman, or Joe Sakic, though. It's just that the relationship with Calgary works for him.

"I want to stay here because there are a lot of things I like about Calgary. The city, being close to home," said Iginla, originally from Edmonton.

"It's a hockey city. You want to win in a hockey city. We want to win where people care. It'd just be amazing.

"It's not just for the sake of staying in one place.

"I know that I'm happy here."

The city is happy, and lucky, to have had him for so long.

Against the Anaheim Ducks tonight, Iginla will pass Al MacInnis for top spot in games played wearing the Flaming C.

Iginla has spent more than a decade as a member of the Flames, but still recalls his first regular-season contest as if it was yesterday.

"I remember it clearly. We played in Vancouver. I'm pretty sure we lost 3-1," said Iginla this week. "I got my first goal that game. I got the goal on a 2-on-1 pass from Corey Millen (who coincidentally came over from the Dallas Stars along with Iginla's rights in the deal for Joe Niewendyk)."

Asked how he has such clarity for something that took place in 1996, Iginla made a confession.

"I remember most of my goals." he said, bursting into laughter. "Let's be honest."

A brief good-natured ribbing of confirmation from his good friend and linemate Craig Conroy followed.

"He knows them all," teased Conroy. "Every hat-trick ... every one."

And there are a lot of them. Theoren Fleury's franchise goal mark is within Iginla's sights.

Just 27 more tallies and Iginla will take over top spot in that category, too. He's also 133 points shy of Fleury's points mark.

As much as Iginla loves to score, he admits the 804th game is a milestone as close to his heart as those who root for the Flames hold their captain.

"It's a special one," he said. "To be with the organization that long.

"To think of the different times, the difficult times through rebuilding and missing playoffs, I really wanted to be here to make the playoffs the first time after being out so long. Thankfully, I was. They've had the confidence to keep me."

Iginla now wants to reward the franchise.

"I really want to be here to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "That's my goal."

It's not in Iginla's nature to take too much time to think about the magnitude of his achievements.

Mention his status as the face of the franchise, and he quickly changes the subject to his desire to make it a championship one.

He's as humble as he was entering the league on a full-time basis back in 1996-97 -- with just two surprise playoff games under his belt from the previous spring and an honest feeling of uncertainty he'd even make the team after struggling in the pre-season.

"I had a tough pre-season. I think I had one assist in eight games.

"I was happy to make the team. I wasn't sure," recalled Iginla, again referencing his regular-season debut.

"I felt like it was a pretty good game. It was a confidence builder."

His confidence would take another leap a few seasons later. It was during the 1999-2000 campaign -- a 29-goal, 63-point year -- Iginla started to believe what Fleury used to tell his young teammate was possible: That he'd be the best player in the league one day.

Iginla modestly shook his head back then.

Still earnest, he admits his aspirations morphed over the years.

"It was a goal to become an elite player in the league, but it took a long time to believe I could get there," said Iginla.

"I think a breakthrough, personally, was one year when I think I had a 16-game point streak. I played with Savvy (Marc Savard) and (Andrei) Nazarov. Things were starting to gel for the first time, where you go in and you actually think you can have a big impact.

"I remember sitting at home once and watching TSN or whatever ... I think it was after the all-star break, they said who's had the most points after the all-star break. I was on the same thing as Modano and Jagr at the time. It was a huge boost to my confidence."

With another five years on his latest contract, which includes a no-trade clause, the benchmark will rise and Iginla likely will join an exclusive club of players to reach 1,000 games with one team.

He doesn't strive to be another Steve Yzerman, or Joe Sakic, though. It's just that the relationship with Calgary works for him.

"I want to stay here because there are a lot of things I like about Calgary. The city, being close to home," said Iginla, originally from Edmonton.

"It's a hockey city. You want to win in a hockey city. We want to win where people care. It'd just be amazing.

"It's not just for the sake of staying in one place.

"I know that I'm happy here."

The city is happy, and lucky, to have had him for so long.

---

CLUB LEADERS

GAMES PLAYED

Al MacInnis 803

Jarome Iginla 803

GOALS

Theoren Fleury 364

Jarome Iginla 337

ASSISTS

Al MacInnis 609

Jarome Iginla 360

POINTS

Theoren Fleury 830

Jarome Iginla 697


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