SUN Hockey Pool

Iggy's skills hard to ignore

RANDY SPORTAK Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:53 PM ET

VANCOUVER — The jig is up on Jarome Iginla.

His good friend Craig Conroy admits the Calgary Flames captain has always been a great trash-talker.

“He was always giving it to Al MacInnis,” Conroy recalled of his days with the St. Louis Blues and games against the Flames in the late 1990s.

“I remember thinking, ‘This guy is a pretty good young player, but he talks a lot of trash.’ ”

Then came the verbal bullets after they had their celebrated fight, when Iginla laid a whipping on Conroy.

“After we had that altercation, he was yelling at me, ‘That’s it from you. I killed you,’ ” Conroy said. “I was sitting there in the penalty box thinking, ‘Geez, he did kill me.’ All I could say back was, ‘What’s the score?’ ”

Time has proven Iginla can walk the walk, too, and he’s on the verge of joining incredibly elite company to prove it.

Iginla hit the 20-goal mark for the 12th straight season in Friday night’s 7-4 win over the Dallas Stars, but the next milestone would be 30.

He would become just the 10th player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in

10 straight campaigns.

Not bad for that young power forward Conroy remembers from years back.

“I didn’t know how good he was. I didn’t think he’d be able to do that or be a 500-goal player. I was impressed with Cory Stillman, Val Bure, Phil Housley. Jarome was second-tier scoring when we played the Flames,” Conroy said. “Then I got traded and got to play with him, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this guy is good.’ I would throw pucks his way that I’d figure there was a 50-50 chance he’d get it, and he’d get the pucks way more often than not. When I started playing with him,

I realized I’d hit the jackpot.”

Iginla went into Saturday night’s clash with the Vancouver Canucks with 461 career goals and 964 points.

For good measure, the two seasons before he reached 30 goals ended with totals of 28 and 29. And all the while, he put up the numbers during the NHL’s dead-puck era — from the mid-1990s through the lockout-lost 2004-05 year.

If all goes well, he’ll hit a bunch of milestones over the next couple of seasons.

Among them is a chance to join the list of 10-straight 30-goal seasons, which includes eight members of the Hockey Hall of Fame — Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Marcel Dionne, Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy and Darryl Sittler. Jaromir Jagr is also part of the club and will soon be in the hall of fame.

Flames head coach Brent Sutter played with or against almost every other player on that list. He compared Iginla to the likes of Cam Neely, Rick Tocchet and Clark Gillies for having a power game and used Iginla’s clutch insurance goal in Friday’s 7-4 win to prove his point.

“He got in there hard on the forecheck, finished a check, battled for the puck and got it behind the net. Then he drove the net and got it back and was able to capitalize on it,” said Sutter of Iggy’s goal to make it 6-4 Flames Friday at the Saddledome. “That’s what a very good player like Jarome will do. He’ll score those big goals at big times.”

Flames defenceman Steve Staios has been on both sides of the ice with Iginla and agreed what sets his teammate apart is the physical element he brings while still having the speed to catch defenders off-guard.

“I’d guess a lot of the guys on that list are pure goal-scorers. I doubt many had that element of physical play,” Staios said. “Every time you’re lining up against him, you know it’s going to physical and you have to play with intelligence.

“You play against a speed guy, you know there’s a certain strategy of playing him. You play against a physical guy, you can have a strategy, but he brings both elements.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


Videos

Photos