SUN Hockey Pool

Pair-fect fit says captain

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Jarome Iginla stuck his neck out for Todd Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi's job will be to make sure the Calgary Flames star captain doesn't pay for it.

From the moment the Flames announced they'd signed the controversial winger, they made sure everybody who'd take notice knew full well Iginla was 100% behind it.

Smart move.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter has plenty of clout with the Sea of Red.

"In Sutter we Trust" is a seemingly non-stop mantra that's often heard among the faithful. But even Sutter is smart enough to know Iginla's backing holds even more weight, and would provide a better pre-emptive strike against any backlash from fans.

Iginla and Bertuzzi were teammates at the 2006 Olympics and the 2003 all-star game. We're not sure that's enough to truly know another player, but Iginla is more than willing to back the maligned man whose career has been marred ever since he sucker punched Steve Moore from behind and ended the Colorado Avalanche winger's career.

This is not to say Iginla's motives weren't sincere. In fact, it appears quite the opposite. He sought out Bertuzzi after the Anaheim Ducks bought him out and he became an unrestricted free agent. Iginla sold him on the benefits of playing in Calgary.

Iginla vouched for him in resounding fashion.

"I've admired him for a lot of years, his on-ice game," Iginla said. "He was a very tough guy to play against, a tough competitor. I know he's had a couple of years on-ice he's not thrilled with and wants more, but I talked to him and know he's charged up, fired up.

"I think he can help our team a lot."

The perception of Iginla and Bertuzzi couldn't be further apart.

Iginla is one of the game's golden boys. A fantastic talent, whose reputation is even better outside the arena for his gracious manner, bright smile and seemingly endless community endeavours.

At his best, Bertuzzi's game was similar, but his reputation off the ice is as a surly brute who can be curt with the media.

Not a problem for Iginla, who said Bertuzzi deserves a second-chance from fans.

"I'm 31, he's 33, this is our prime. The time (to win a Stanley Cup) is now," Iginla said. "He can add a lot in different areas. He's a physical presence, loves to be in front of the net. When I got to play with him, it felt like there was a lot of chemistry. I've talked to a couple of guys and they're excited about it, too."

If they're not, Iginla's word is good enough.

Craig Conroy -- who admits he likes everybody, including Sean Avery -- has faith in Iginla's point of view.

"I didn't like playing against him," Conroy said. "We were playing against him when he was really rolling and I didn't like that much, but having him on your team and being a part of it is a good thing.

"Jarome said he liked playing with him, and that's something right there."

It's worth noting, the Flames have had heir share of questionable characters -- even in recent years -- with dubious incidents on and off the ice.

Iginla insisted Bertuzzi's reputation was never a question for the team's dressing room. Now the onus is on Bertuzzi to repay the support.

"I've always appreciated the way Jarome has carried himself and how he's played in that market, and I'm pretty sure there's a number of times he could have taken off somewhere else but he wanted to stick around and play there," he said. "It'll be nice to be in the dressing room now."

Quite nice to have him in your corner, too.


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