CALGARY - Jarome Iginla’s birth certificate says he’s only 34.
The fact the Calgary Flames captain was off the ice nearly two weeks due to a bad back, naturally, meant some comments about being much, much older.
“We were thinking of getting him a cane the other day,” defenceman Mark Giordano cracked.
“We always go at it, and I’ve definitely taken some heat so far in the camp,” Iginla admitted. “I’m not the oldest guy on the team. I hope to one day be the oldest guy on the team.”
Right now, the Flames just hope Iginla is ready for action for this season’s opener. Good news in that regard came Thursday, when he skated for the first time since the first on-ice session Sept. 17.
Iginla skated by himself for 20 minutes at the Saddledome long before his teammates took to the ice and wasn’t allowed to push himself too hard, but it was, at least, a first step.
“Unfortunately, it took longer to get back and skating than I thought, but I felt good today and will keep working to be ready for opening day,” Iginla said. “I thought I’d be back sooner, but after talking to Brent (Sutter, the head coach) and the staff, it was better to be safe with the time we have and to do it properly.
“We all want to be on the ice, and we all want to be playing and part of it. But at the same time, I’d rather it be now than during the season, so I look at it as a positive, maybe a blessing. We still have a week to get ready for the season.”
It’s not known when Iginla will practise fully with the team. Much will depend how he feels Friday morning, as the team can’t risk aggravating the problem.
“It’s not my call. It’s all steps,” he said. “Today was getting out and getting back into striding. Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll feel great and each day build up and keep going.
“As athletes, we’re excited to get out there, and we want to just push, push, push, but sometimes, we need to be held back a little bit. That was the 20-minute limit today, just to warm it up and start building that confidence and trust.”
The Flames open the season at home Oct. 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who co-incidentally may be without the services of their star player in Sidney Crosby.
Because of back problems, Iginla didn’t play in any pre-season games, which has prevented him from rebuilding his chemistry with linemates, especially Alex Tanguay, and knock off the rust from a long summer.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Iginla said of missing those games. “I would have loved to play one but didn’t have the opportunity, so I’ll do my best to be ready for opening night.”
Iginla hasn’t missed a game in each of the last four seasons. He’s coming off a campaign in which he collected 43 goals and 86 points.
The franchise’s all-time leader in goals and points, and needs 16 goals to reach 500 for his career.
“Hopefully, it won’t be an issue from opening day on,” he said. “You want to play, but it is easier to watch pre-season games than regular season games.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, defenceman Cory Sarich (pelvis) saw his first pre-season action Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes, while centre Mikael Backlund also played after a couple of days nursing an undisclosed problem.
However, left-winger Rene Bourque remains out of action with an undisclosed injury. Sutter said it’s not a concussion.
“He’s doing fine,” Sutter said. “It’s just something that’s been nagging him a bit, but he’ll be practising the next few days.”
Defenceman Brett Carson (back) is also not taking part in practices, but centre Brendan Morrison (knee), right-winger Tim Jackman (groin) and left-winger Raitis Ivanans were part of the morning skate.