Iggy's smile could light way for NHL

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:59 PM ET



 After a taking a breath, the always chatty Conroy came up with the solution.

 "You know what," he said. "I wanna see him on MTV's Cribs. I love to watch that show and I never see a hockey player on it."

 Couldn't hurt, could it?

 As much as pro sports is about championships, stats and skills, it's also about personalities.

 Undoubtedly, the National Hockey League needs more of its personalities in the public eye.

 Conroy, admitting he's somewhat biased, figures the Calgary Flames captain is the perfect candidate for a blitz.

 "I know we're in a Canadian market that people in the U.S. don't see much but if you have to put a face to this game, I'd put Jarome Iginla's," he said.

 Could it be that a Calgary Flame is the next great star?

 "They say there's no Gretzky or Lemieux but look at Iggy and the way he plays," said teammate Chris Simon. "He fights, scores 40 goals, does everything. How can you not start looking at him to take over for those guys.

 "And anything he does off the ice outweighs what he does on it."

 With the Stanley Cup final beginning tonight, much will be made about it being an unattractive series in the U.S.

 In one corner, you've got the Tampa Bay Lightning -- a sunbelt city that was called the worst franchise in all pro sports a few years ago.

 In the other stands an unlikely club from Western Canada, a small-market franchise referred to as the NHL's Hinterland and known for missing seven straight playoffs.

 Even if it's a ratings bonanza north of the border, it's hardly what ESPN was hoping for.

 Enter, says Conroy, Iginla.

 "We need to market the guy because if people get to know him and meet him, they'll love him. Just like we do," he said. "We need to get people to say, 'Jarome Iginla's in town and we need to see him.' "

 There's plenty to like.

 Want a goal scorer? He's won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice in the last three years.

 Want a player who epitomizes the rugged aspect of the game? Not many players want to meet him in a corner. Fewer wish to drop the gloves with him.

 Want an ambassador? The stories about his personality off the ice go on and on.

 "Of all the players I've been around, he handles it as well as anybody -- the media, expectations of the fans, the adoration," said Calgary assistant coach Rich Preston. "He's one of a kind."

 With a 1,000-watt grin.

 And humility.

 "It's very nice compliment," blushed Iginla after being told he could be the face of the game.

 "There's a lot of great young players coming up who are going to be great to watch -- Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley. I wish I could say I was as young as them but that's not the case anymore.

 "I don't know what to say. It's been very exciting as a team to win and the attention you get as a team and individually for winning.

 "Being in this position has been fun, what we've hoped for. We're not done yet and hopefully we'll have our team as the new face of hockey.

 "For winning."


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