Perfect present

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

 SAN JOSE -- For the first time in almost a decade, Jarome Iginla won't be home for Mother's Day.

 "I was just thinking that," said his mom, Susan Schuhard, from her home in St. Albert yesterday.

  "But what a good excuse he has."

 Although he always makes a point of taking his mother, grandmother and various other family members out for Mother's Day brunch or dinner, he'll instead take hockey's centre stage this afternoon when he lines up for the opening of the Western Conference final (2 p.m., CBC).

 However, he won't be using the game as an excuse, having made arrangements for his mother and grandmother to receive flower arrangements Friday -- something he's done ever since he left home to play in Kamloops as a teen.

 "Sometimes I'm a little more original," shrugged Jarome, beaming when talk turns to his dear ol' ma.

 "She always says -- or pretends -- she likes them and that's part of the tradition too. It's good to hear she's happy we're not there. I'm happy too. We'll do a Mother's Day thing later."

 While most players likely sent their mothers a card, flowers or will simply call before today's game, it's clear the bond between Iginla and his mother is deeper than most. A single mom who raised Jarome with the help of her parents, Schuhard worked tirelessly to ensure her son could play all the sports that helped make him the man he is today.

 A respectful, humble person who does his mother, city and country proud every time he speaks or plays, Jarome's work ethic is once again being mirrored by his mother, who is close to fulfilling a dream of her own.

 With the financial backing of her only child, Schuhard is now just one year away from graduating with a four-year Secondary Education degree at the University of Alberta, with a major in drama and minor in music. A singer and actress, who cut short her education and career 26 years ago to raise Jarome, she'll graduate next April with hopes of fulfilling a lifelong goal of teaching children.

 "I'm very proud of her," said Jarome with a twinkle in his eye.

 "I know it took a lot of courage to go back and be an older student and also try something new. At first, she was a little intimidated by all the work and getting back into the books but she's really enjoying it and she's worked very hard at it. I think she'll be a wonderful teacher. She loves music and drama and that's her specialty. I always saw her with kids growing up -- she did a lot of entertaining for them, so it'll be great. What an accomplishment, to have her degree in that. It's not easy, I'm sure."

 What really won't be easy is if the Flames go on another playoff run next year and he misses her graduation day.

 "I hope it doesn't fall on a game night -- I'll cross my fingers," said Jarome, who spends his summers living down the street from the condo he bought his mother.

 "I know it's going to be a big day for both of us," added mom, who has attended all but one playoff game at the 'Dome.

 "Our relationship is special because we've always allowed independence. A lot of single parents don't let that occur and they become too dependent. He never forgets his mom, whether it's my birthday or Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. He always sends flowers and he's always supportive. As busy as he is, he doesn't forget. He really is a good boy."

 Schuhard is enthralled with the grip the Flames have on the entire province.

 "I was wearing my (Flames) jersey the other day and people gave me a thumbs-up, which is unusual because I usually get horrible looks," she said. "Even people (in Edmonton) are getting excited about it."

 While Jarome is in California chasing his Stanley Cup dream, Schuhard will have a full house today as several family members will convene around both her TVs to watch him play the Sharks.

 "Two goals ... now that would be a Mother's Day gift," laughed mom.

 Or, as she says, just seeing her boy do what he loves, is the perfect present.


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