March 27th, 2013 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath
It’s 12:30 in the morning.
I’m still taking it all in.
When the Flames traded for Jarome Iginla in early December of 1995 I was shocked. I had no idea who the guy was, I think the radio DJ on an FM station butchered his name at the time, and that didn’t help. Joe Niewendyk was an amazing player and he was gone.
Jarome Iginla was an amazing player and now he’s gone. The circle of hockey life
I always tell people that being a sports fan is way more intricate, delicate, and in the case of a 11:30 press conference tonight immediate.
You feel things.
It’s not stamp collecting. It’s not scrapbooking. It’s not art. It’s not science. It’s emotion, and bonding, and waves of ups and downs.
Ups so high you can barely get your head around it; I will never forget in 2004 when Josef, long time Calgarypuck fan from Germany went missing in my house when the Flames, led by Jarome Iginla dispatched the Vancouver Canucks. Missing. He was gone. Found him lying in the front entrance way of my house looking at the ceiling. He couldn’t be with others when the puck went in. He had to find some space and think.
I love that.
Teams lose and you feel loss. It hurts. You feel it until they win again, and all is right again.
Every once and a while a night like this comes along, and you get to reflect on a slough of things that have rifled through your gray matter day in and day out for years.
The circle of life for the Flames started with a franchise move to Calgary from Atlanta. That team’s best player was a Swedish center named Kent Nilson, he was amazing. When his inconsistency patience ran out he was dealt the the Northstars for two second round picks and I felt hollow. Two second round picks? They picks as we all know turned into Niewendyk and Stephane Matteau. Niewendyk turned into Iginla and now Iginla has turned into two college kids that I’ve never heard of and a first round pick.
For me Iginla was polarizing. He was a machine when he was young. I watched that gold medal game from 2002 again this year and it was jaw dropping. Power, pan-ash, … balls.
He lead the Flames out of the dark ages, almost won them a Stanley Cup, and made a black “C” where a white and red “C” used to be a fashion statement in Calgary again. We will always owe him for that.
In the end I was too critical of the guy. I remember what he was and what he no longer could be and it annoyed me. Not because he was eroding as an asset, because that is biology and inevitability, but because the Flames were tied to the emotion that comes with a saviour. You keep saviours, you embrace them, you talk life time service agreements and keys to the city, you never trade them.
But in keeping said icon, you tie your fate to an ideal that couldn’t be reached. The team was falling down, crumbling, but the team, the owners, and the city wanted a player to win so bad that they had to continue to pull out the scotch tape and Elmer’s glue to attempt and get that player back into the playoffs.
It wasn’t fair to the player, he should have moved on and had a chance when he was closer to his prime as many of us knew the Flames were going nowhere since 2007.
Instead he soldiered on like the icon he was, and did his best. Off the ice nobody could touch the guy, he was the nicest, coolest athlete to ever wear red for any team in this city, and for that his place in history is solid.
But the team stunted the last quarter of his career, and limped through a re-tool that was misguided for a franchise.
So tonight, after a shocking twist of teams from Boston to Pittsburgh, the Flames say good bye to Jarome Iginla.
I salute the guy, it was a great ride.
And I salute the team for finally turning the page, and making a tough decision. A decision that will finally show some direction and a play once again.
This poured out.
I won’t re-read or do any edits.
Sleep well Calgary.
And go win Jarome.
And equally as important, welcome back to tomorrow, Calgary Flames.