September 6th, 2002


"That Feels Good"

Flames, Iginla All Smiles with New Pact

AP Photo

Signed! Jarome Iginla couldn't help but smile at the Saddledome press conference this afternoon.
Also See ... Breaking News: Done Deal!
by D'Arcy McGrath

"That feels good", stated a blushing Jarome Iginla as he donned his familiar white Calgary Flames jersey and stood up to the podium to a rousing cheer at a Saddledome press conference this afternoon.

Just under 16 hours earlier, at roughly 10 pm. on Thursday night Calgary GM Craig Button and a very jet lagged Don Meehan put the finishing touches on Iginla's new two year deal. 

The deal calls for 5.5 million this season, a number closely resembling the Flames offer made public in the Calgary Sun in August. The second year inches closer to the demands of the Iginla camp, coming in at an even 7.0 million U.S.. 

The deal's bonus structure featured a $500,000 signing bonus, consistent team incentives, and additional personal incentives for figuring in any of the league's five major awards ($400 thousand for a first place finish, $200 thousand for second, and $100 thousand for a third place finish).

"My job was to paint a clear landscape for my client", Don Meehan told, "to give Jarome an idea of what he could make on the open market. We could have taken a very aggressive stance."

"But that wasn't where Jarome wanted to go, he knew Calgary couldn't be in a position to accommodate those levels".

"Jarome had a mandate from the beginning ... and that was to stay in Canada, and particularly Calgary. He has a deep respect for Calgary ownership".

The event had the feeling of a new edition to the Calgary Flames, a new superstar added to the team, even though the pomp and ceremony was aimed at a player that was and still is a Calgary Flame.

"Jarome mentioned how relieved he was", stated GM Craig Button, "but I don't think anyone in this room could be more relieved than I am right now".

"Listen, were talking about a guy who sits third in the league in goal scoring over the last three years, behind Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Bure", Button pointed out to, "Jarome is one of the game's best players".

When asked if additional bonuses would come his star player's way should an all star game appearance be in the works, Button shook his head to say no, but then uttered, "but he had better be an all star!".

Yes indeed ... for 13 million over two seasons the pressure is now on Iginla to produce. Produce individually, but also take his team to the next level, the playoffs.

"We have some great fans in Calgary, when you look at other teams that have missed the playoffs five or so years, they don't get the same support. The fans here care, they are involved", suggested the man of the hour, Iginla.

"I hope they come out and buy season tickets, so we can win together".

Ah yes, the bottom line, ticket sales.

For the better part of five months the issue in Flame-land has revolved around season ticket sales. Many have suggested the signing of a star player is the only variable needed to open the flood gates on a rash of new support for the club.

"Lets just say the phones are ringing", said president Ken King.

"This is literally gas on the fire. September and October are harvest season for hockey teams, it's the time when many people step up to the plate."

"We have 10,280 season ticket holders as of 10:00 AM this morning, and that's without knowing who was on the team".

For the Calgary hockey fan, attention can no return to the sport's intended target, the ice, and away from bank accounts, collective bargaining agreements, agents, small market woes, and currency imbalances.

The Flames are at full strength, bolstered by some off season additions, and free from any serious distractions when they hit the ice next Saturday in Banff. 

Their yearly quest to climb that playoff mountain begins soon, and they won't have to start their ascent without their star Shirpa.

"Our goal is to make the playoffs, and then do well in the playoffs" said Iginla.

A formidable goal in the ultra competitive western conference, but a goal made much more possible with the events of Friday.


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