CALGARY — Jarome Iginla finally has come clean.
With Dion Phaneuf marching into town for the first time since being traded to the Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames captain no longer can hold his tongue about the physical disagreement he had with his former teammate.
“Yes, Dion and I had a scrap,” Iginla admitted to QMI Agency.
Does that mean the rumours of infighting between Phaneuf and Iginla were true?
Is this, then, a confirmation of the various reports alluding that a bitter confrontation took place behind the closed doors of the dressing room while both were members of the Calgary Flames, a tussle that resulted in one of them receiving a shiner?
“Ask Dion about our wrestling match,” Iginla said with a wink.
“It was at the hotel one time and we were just fooling around,” Phaneuf confirmed Tuesday.
In other words, it was all in fun.
“Of course it was,” Iginla said. “All that other stuff going around was (garbage).
“I was aware of the rumours. One of them suggested we got into it and one of us ended up with a black eye. I really don’t know where this stuff comes from.”
Iginla has heard it all. Like the fact that he and Phaneuf engaged in a punchup. Or that Phaneuf might have had an affair with one of the Flames’ wives/girlfriends. The blogosphere and world wide web were full of such tales of intrigue, infighting and infidelity.
To those who would spread such innuendo, Iginla figures they themselves are full of, well, you know.
“It’s kind of sad, really,” Iginla said. “It’s at the point where I can’t listen to those things anymore. You start hearing your name associated with alleged incidents or things you were allegedly supposed to have done and you ask yourself: ‘How do people come up with these things?’ ”
There were times, Iginla admits, that he and Phaneuf did not see eye to eye. But that’s not isolated to just those two. According to the Flames captain, emotions run high during the heat of battle between friends, teammates, you name it.
“We may have yelled at each other on a couple of occasions but that’s because we’re both very competitive individuals,” Iginla said. “We both want to win very badly. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that the type of player you want on your team?
“Dion and I have been friends for a long time. And we will be long after our respective hockey careers have ended.”
Both natives of the Edmonton area, Iginla welcomed Phaneuf to the Flames for the 2005-06 season after Calgary selected the hard-shooting, bone-crunching defenceman ninth overall in the 2003 entry draft.
Phaneuf made an instant splash for the Flames as a rookie, scoring 20 goals (a total that still stands as his career high) and receiving serious consideration for the Calder Trophy, finishing behind winner Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
But post-season success eluded Iginla, Phaneuf and the Flames, leading to unrest among those in the loyal fanbase and rumours that Phaneuf was a disruptive force to the team’s chemistry.
Iginla, for his part, laughs at that suggestion.
“Dion was never an issue in the dressing room,” Iginla said.
Back on June 14, Iginla was the first person to call Phaneuf and congratulate him on officially being handed the “C” by the Maple Leafs. For his part, Iginla feels the Leafs made a good decision.
“I think Dion will be a fine captain,” Iginla said. “He plays hard, he practises hard and he leads by example.”
Disgruntled Calgary fans might not necessarily agree with Iginla’s assessment of Phaneuf. And you can expect them to let Phaneuf know that by loudly booing the former Flames defenceman Thursday night when he steps on to the Saddledome ice for the first time since the blockbuster deal on Jan. 31 that sent Phaneuf, defence prospect Keith Aulie and forward Fredrik Sjostrom to the Leafs for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White.
“I’m not so sure they should (boo) him,” Iginla said. “But they probably will.
“It’ll be a mixed reaction, I’m sure.”
One he and his buddy Phaneuf will likely chuckle about years from now