After 20 seasons in the NHL, 41-year-old forward Jarome Iginla is hanging up the skates. He will officially announce his retirement in a press conference on Monday in Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome, where he spent the first 16 years of his career.
“In a sense, I grew up there,” Iginla told the Calgary Flames’ website. “I started playing for the Flames at 19, but even in minor hockey I remember traveling to Calgary for tournaments, from St. Albert, and I imagined playing in the Saddledome. It’s been a fun adventure for my family and I. Some great cities, great people. To be back in Alberta, though, will feel like home.”
The Calgary leader in goals (525), points (1,095), games played (1,219), power-play goals (161) and game-winning goals (83), Iginla finishes his career with 625 goals, 675 assists and 1,300 points in 1,554 games with five teams (Calgary, Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado and L.A.).
A first-round draft pick by Dallas (No. 11 overall) in the 1995 NHL Draft, Iginla was traded that December while still in the minor leagues, and made his NHL debut with Calgary in April 1996. He went on to appear in the NHL All-Star Game six times (2002-04, 2008-09, 2012), was named to the NHL First Team All-Star three times (2002, 2008, 2009), and twice led the league in scoring (2002, 52 goals; 2004, 41 goals).
The NHL Players’ Association selected Iginla as the NHL’s most outstanding player in 2002, when he had 96 points (52 goals, 44 assists), and two years later he won the NHL Foundation Player Award for leadership in the community.
He helped teams into the playoffs eight times, and was captain of the Flames when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, but they lost to Tampa Bay in seven games. Iginla, who was born in Edmonton, also starred for Canada in three Olympics, winning gold in 2002 and 2010.
“If you said when I started that I was going to play 20 years, experience what I have, I’d have taken it in a heartbeat,” Iginla said. “I did the best I could, played as hard as I could. I don’t sit here now and think, ‘Man, it flew by. I wish I’d enjoyed it more.’ When I started, you have a dream about making in the NHL, how good it’s going to be and what it’s like. I enjoyed it while it was happening.”
Iginla has also enjoyed a personal relationship with God. His mother was Buddhist and his father was raised Muslim but became a Christian; they divorced with Iginla was a year old. He says his dad has always had the biggest influence on his faith, and that’s who Iginla turned to when he had questions.
“When I was younger, one of my best friends and I were talking and he asked me, ‘What do you think happens when we die? Is it just black? Is it nothing? What do you think?’ I started to think about it and I got this pit of worry in my stomach,” Iginla told Sports Spectrum in 2004. “I told him, ‘Oh don’t worry, God will take care of us.’ But deep down it really scared me. I would try to put it out of my mind, but whenever I would think about it, this empty feeling in my stomach would come back.”
“This feeling of fear was there for some time,” he continued, “until I went to my dad and asked him for help. He said to me, ‘Why don’t you ask Jesus to come into your life, forgive your sins, and take that feeling away? If He doesn’t, then you haven’t lost anything, but if He does, look at what you’ve gained.’ So that’s what I did and to this day, that feeling in my stomach hasn’t come back.”
Speaking with CBN about Jesus, Iginla said, “I believe He died for us, and I believe He’s there for us and we can lean on him. And I do.”
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