The case for Jarome Iginla’s first-ballot hall-of-fame induction has another big piece of ammunition.
The Calgary Flames captain and face of the franchise became just the 42nd player in NHL history to join the 500-goal club with his third-period tally in Saturday night’s 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
“You don’t know when it’s going happen, and in a perfect world, it feels better and more special to do it at home here,” Iginla said. “It was a lot of fun.”
As a pure goal, it won’t going to go down in history as the prettiest, but that won’t matter to Iginla or anyone else who’s cheered for him.
With the Flames leading 1-0 thanks to Lance Bouma’s first NHL marker, Iginla — with both of his parents on-hand — went down the right wing and simply fired a shot toward the net only to see it ricochet off the skates of both Wild teammates Marek Zidlicky and Mikko Koivu before going past their netminder, Niklas Backstrom.
The Flames bench — once everyone finally realized it was indeed Iginla’s tally — cleared in celebration, and the standing ovation began with the chants of “Iggy! Iggy! Iggy!”
Maybe down the road, Iginla can say it was a patented one-timer from the top of the left circle or a breakaway goal after deking the goalie out of his jockstrap.
“They’ve got video, so I won’t be able to make fibs too much,” Iginla said with uproarious laughter. “I’ll probably replay it once a while when the kids won’t listen to me on how to shoot the puck or put the puck to the net.”
Lance Bouma and Curtis Glencross also scored for the Flames (19-19-5), who snapped a five-game losing skid.
Dany Heatley replied for the Wild (21-15-6), spoiling Miikka Kiprusoff’s shutout bid late in the third period.
The Flames continue their homestand Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
Iginla, who became a full-time NHLer in the 1996-97 season, is only the 15th player to score all those goals with the same organization, joining an incredibly exclusive club which includes Jean Beliveau, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Stan Mikita, Mike Modano, Gilbert Perreault, Maurice Richard, Joe Sakic, Brian Trottier and Steve Yzerman.
Lanny McDonald is the only other player to score his 500th goal as a member of the Flames.
It’s also Iginla’s 80th game-winner.
It’s pretty easy to find people in the hockey world happy for Iginla, whose known for his class and dignity as much as his ability.
“If you kind of believe in hockey gods, this is one of those moments they wanted to happen here, for sure,” said Flames centre Brendan Morrison.
“It’s a very elite club. It’s like 3,000 hits in baseball,” said Craig Conroy, Iginla’s close friend and long-time linemate. “Now, he can go for 600.”
“Quite a special accomplishment,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, who won his 100th game as the team’s bench boss. “Milestones say a lot about individuals, and it shows what he’s done in the game.”
“There’s no more deserving person,” said Andrew Ference, who now plays for the Boston Bruins. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody in the league that doesn’t have the utmost respect for him and the way he plays the game and carries himself.”
Of Iginla’s goals, 253 have come on home ice, and this ranks as among the biggest.
“I’ve been very blessed in hockey to have some great moments and memories that will stick with me — that’s one I’ll remember,” Iginla added. “It’s a new day tomorrow. We don’t want to get caught thinking of too much history. I want to play a lot longer and, hopefully, score a lot more goals and be part of a lot more winning.”
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