Iggy is the Milestone Man

Jarome Iginla is getting ready to suit up for his 1,000th game with the Flames. (Calgary Sun file...

Jarome Iginla is getting ready to suit up for his 1,000th game with the Flames. (Calgary Sun file photo)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

Jarome Iginla has seen his share of turnover during 13 seasons with the Calgary Flames.

He's made it unscathed through every transition period.

The fact the 32-year-old survived the latest overhaul -- which saw the organization ship out a quarter of its roster this week -- punctuates the notion the Flames captain remains key to the success of the franchise.

It also allows him to join a very exclusive club.

Iginla will suit up for his 1,000th game Friday night against the Florida Panthers. He joins a short list of 23 NHLers who've had the privilege of playing that long from the start of their careers with just one franchise.

Among them are Hall-of-Famers Steve Yzerman, Bob Gainey, Denis Potvin and Stan Mikita, and future Hall lock Joe Sakic.

"It is definitely special to me. I definitely feel blessed," said Iginla, who realizes how rare it is to have the luxury of playing for one team through all its ups and downs.

"I look back over the years and remember hearing different trade rumours -- especially when we were moving a lot of guys and rebuilding.

"I'm thankful that I got to stay here."

He wasn't always so sure it would work out that way.

Breaking into the league during the playoffs in 1996, Iginla had no idea the two spring games he suited up for would be his last in the NHL for nearly a decade.

His constant improvement as a player wasn't reflective in the team's overall success. The Flames won an average of 30 games a year during his first four seasons, and trade rumours started to reach Iginla, who was just tapping into his potential.

"About my fourth or fifth year, I (heard I might be) traded to Buffalo for Mike Peca," Iginla said. "I remember asking (reporter) Eric Duhatschek, 'There's a lot of rumours. What do you think the chances are? Do you think it's close?'

Duhatschek's response wasn't what Iginla wanted to hear.

"A*****. About 50-50," Iginla said with a spot-on imitation of the longtime Flames follower.

"I'm like, 'Fifty-fifty? So I'm on a coin toss here!?'"

With a wide range of body language, wild expression and enthusiasm while recalling the memory, Iginla easy impresses on his audience of one just how badly even back then he wanted to remain a part of the Flames' plans.

"Looking back afterwards, I think it was probably pretty close," Iginla said.

"I'm really, obviously, very happy that I got to stay here."

Remembering things quite differently is Harley Hotchkiss, an original member of the Flames ownership group.

"I can tell you, I've been here 30 years, all of Jarome's career, and I don't remember any discussion of any substance about trading Jarome Iginla," Hotchkiss said with a laugh.

"Maybe it happened and I've mercifully forgotten, but I don't think that happened.

"I don't recall any discussion about ever trading Jarome Iginla."

Likewise, Iginla has never had any intention of leaving.

Although negotiations were difficult when his entry-level deal expired, Iginla signed a new contract three games into the 1999-00 season after participating in training camp in good faith with his own insurance policy. He went on to post the best numbers of his short career with 29 goals and 63 points in 77 games.

Taking another giant leap forward in 2000-01, Iginla broke the 30-goal barrier for the first time and finished with 31 scores and 71 points in 77 contests.

Exploding into elite status in the final season of that three-year deal with his memorable 52-goal, 96-point season -- which earned him both the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies -- Iginla was presented with his best opportunity to leave Calgary for greener (the colour of money) pastures.

He chose to stay with the Flames.

"There were a few things that went into that. I enjoyed playing here. You develop friends on the team. Your family and friends being close," said the Edmonton product. "But what it ultimately came down to is I want to win.

"It's a first-class organization. We don't always get everything perfect, but they're working towards it. They keep trying and they're committed and they give us every chance as players.

"I still believe we can win here. If we didn't look like we were going to be competitive, I don't know if I would have made the same decision."

Of course, ownership did its part in making sure he was rewarded. Not just because of his performance on the ice, but because of the way he carried himself off it as well.

"I think we realized from the start his great potential on the ice," said Hotchkiss. "We realized from the start what a solid, high-integrity person Jarome is.

"I had a feeling right from the start he would never let us down. I kind of sensed that. I think we did as an ownership group. "

Iginla's decision to stick around, and ownership's eagerness to keep him led to a new era in Flames hockey.

A return to the playoffs. The birth of the Sea of Red. Iginla's time as captain and ultimately etching his name atop many of the franchise's records.

"There were some pretty lean times here, and you can't blame the fans," said Iginla. "I mean, we were out of the playoffs for seven years. It's hard on them.

"I got to be here to make the playoffs, got to be here to see the traditions built.

"I got the first part of it -- but the ultimate is to win the Stanley Cup here.

"I'm thankful I still have the opportunity to compete for that and be part of this organization."

One thousand games and counting.

STEVE MACFARLANE

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IGGY'S FLAMES CAREER TIMELINE

Dec. 19, 1995 -- Flames acquire Iginla and forward Corey Millen from the Dallas Stars in exchange for four-time all-star Joe Nieuwendyk, who is embroiled in a contract dispute with the club.

Jan. 4, 1996 -- Iginla captures a gold medal at the world junior hockey championships in Boston, Mass. He wins the tourney scoring title with five goals and seven assists in six outings and is named the top forward.

April 21, 1996 -- Iginla makes his NHL debut -- in the playoffs, no less -- when he joins the Flames for a first-round clash with the Chicago Blackhawks. He collects one goal and one assist in two games.

Jan. 2, 1997 -- Iginla hits the ice sporting a new look, having switched from No. 24 to No. 12.

1996-97 -- Iginla leads all rookies with 50 points, including 21 goals. He finishes as a runner-up to New York Islanders defenceman Bryan Berard for NHL rookie of the year.

April 17, 1999 -- With 28 goals, Iginla finishes as the Flames' leading goal-scorer for the first time.

Dec. 7, 2001 -- Iginla is named an assistant captain.

Jan. 21, 2001 -- With one goal, one assist and a spirited scrap with Brendan Shanahan, Iginla records his first Gordie Howe hat-trick.

Feb. 24, 2002 -- Iginla scores two goals and adds an assist as Team Canada beats Team USA 5-2 to win gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

March 4, 2002 -- Iginla records his first career hat-trick in a victory over the New York Rangers.

April 13, 2002 -- The Flames sniper finishes the season with 52 goals and 96 points, winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top point-producer and the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's leading marksmen.

June 19, 2002 -- Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore wins the Hart Trophy, barely edging Iginla in a close vote. Iginla, however, captures the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHLPA's pick for MVP.

Oct. 8, 2003 -- Iginla is named the 14th captain in Flames history.

April 4, 2004 -- Iginla finishes the season with 41 goals, tying Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the Rocket Richard Trophy and leading the Flames into the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

June 7, 2004 -- The Flames lose 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. Iginla finishes as runner-up in the scoring race, too, after notching 13 goals and nine assists during the Flames' fairytale run.

June 10, 2004 -- Iginla attends the NHL Awards Night as a Hart Trophy candidate but watches Lightning winger Martin St. Louis win the MVP award. Iginla claims the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his humanitarian work.

July 4, 2007 -- Iginla signs a five-year, US$35-million contract extension, the richest contract in club history.

Nov. 29, 2007 -- Iginla suits up for his 804th career game, surpassing star defenceman Al MacInnis as Calgary's all-time leader in games played.

March 10, 2008 -- Iginla scores his 365th career goal in a victory over the St. Louis Blues, moving past Theoren Fleury as the most prolific sniper in franchise history.

April 5, 2008 -- With a goal in the third period of the final game of the season in Vancouver, Iginla becomes a 50-goal scorer for the second time in his career.

March 1, 2009 -- With a five-point effort against the Lightning, Iginla surpasses Fleury and becomes the Flames' all-time points leader. Fleury had 830 points in Flames silks.

June 18, 2009 -- Iginla is named the recipient of the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

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WHERE HE STANDS

IGGY'S PLACE IN FLAMES RECORD BOOK

GAMES PLAYED

1. Jarome Iginla 999

2. Al MacInnis 803

3. Theoren Fleury 791

4. Joel Otto 730

5. Robyn Regehr 722

GOALS

1. Jarome Iginla 433

2. Theoren Fleury 364

3. Joe Nieuwendyk 314

4. Gary Roberts 257

5. Lanny McDonald 215

ASSISTS

1. Al MacInnis 609

2. Jarome Iginla 470

3. Theoren Fleury 466

4. Gary Suter 436

5. Joe Nieuwendyk 302

POINTS

1. Jarome Iginla 903

2. Theoren Fleury 830

3. Al MacInnis 822

4. Joe Nieuwendyk 616

5. Gary Suter 564

GAME-WINNING GOALS

1. Jarome Iginla 68

2. Theoren Fleury 53

3. Joe Nieuwendyk 43

4. Joe Mullen 33

5. Gary Roberts 27

PENALTY MINUTES

1. Tim Hunter 2,405

2. Gary Roberts 1,736

3. Joel Otto 1,642

4. Jim Peplinski 1,467

5. Theoren Fleury 1,339

12. Jarome Iginla 715

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SINGLES CLUB

JUST ONE TEAM FOR THESE GUYS

Only 22 NHLers have played for a single franchise and racked up 1,000 regular-season games for that club. Jarome Iginla becomes the 23rd Friday night.

Alex Delvecchio, Det 1,549

Steve Yzerman, Det 1,514

*Mike Modano, Dal 1,444

Stan Mikita, Chi 1,394

Joe Sakic, Colo 1,378

*N. Lidstrom, Det 1,387

Ken Daneyko, NJ 1,283

Henri Richard, Mtl 1,256

Gilbert Perreault, Buf 1,191

G. Armstrong, Tor 1,187

Bob Gainey, Mtl 1,160

Bobby Clarke, Phil 1,144

Jean Beliveau, Mtl 1,125

Dave Taylor, LA 1,111

Craig Ramsey, Buf 1,070

Rod Gilbert, NYR 1,065

Denis Potvin, NYI 1,060

Ron Ellis, Tor 1,034

Wayne Cashman, Bos 1,027

*Shane Doan, Phx 1,022

Bob Murray, Chi 1,008

Claude Provost, Mtl 1,005

*Jarome Iginla, Cgy 999

*Currently active in the NHL (numbers take into account all games including Thursday night)


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