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Jarome Iginla inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame after 20-year NHL career leaning on God

Following a 20-year NHL career, which ended in 2018, Jarome Iginla is now also a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. The Hall announced its six-member 2020 class on Wednesday.

“This selection is hard to believe and makes me reflect and look back on my career,” Iginla said in a release. “I was always just trying to make the NHL, and this recognition means a lot to me and my family.”

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With his induction, which is tentatively scheduled for November 16 in Toronto, Iginla will also become the fourth black player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, following Grant Fuhr, women’s hockey pioneer Angela James and color barrier pioneer Willie O’Ree.

“Growing up, I loved playing hockey. I didn’t view myself as a black hockey player, but I was also aware that I was,” Iginla said, via ESPN. “My mom was just reminding me today of a picture I took with Grant Fuhr when I was 10 and he was in his early 20s. It’s pretty neat to think that he got to the Hall of Fame, and I got there with him. If there are other minorities, other black kids growing up seeing that it’s possible, it’ll be special to other kids like it was to me.”

Iginla finished his career with 625 goals (16th all time in the NHL), 675 assists (34th) and 1,300 points in 1,554 games with five teams (Calgary, Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado and L.A.). He appeared 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). He was the NHL’s most outstanding player in 2002, when he had 96 points (52 goals, 44 assists), and two years later 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, though he never won a Stanley Cup. Born in Edmonton, Iginla 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 upon retiring. “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 when 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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