Jarome Iginla, "All-Around Pro"
BostonBruins.com - Jarome Iginla has been around the league for a while.
Since 1996, the winger has been making his way through NHL cities, scoring 532 goals and 1,114 points in the process.
After 16 seasons, Iginla is known for his lethal shot that propelled him to 12 straight seasons of 30 or more goals. But he's also predominantly remembered for something that would be concerned an "intangible" amidst hockey conversation.
With Iginla and the Bruins in Pittsburgh to face off against the Penguins for the first time since the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday night, his former teammates and coach - albeit for only a brief stint - gave their thoughts on what it was like to have the future Hall of Famer around.
"That would be it, being a consummate professional and all-around pro," said Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma, on what he took away from the experience.
"There's that, and his shot, were the two things that left a mark on me."
It comes as no surprise, given that in the two months he's been around Boston and through the B's first 10 games of the season, we've witnessed that firsthand.
In fact, since July, when he officially signed as a Bruin, Iginla's positive attitude, work ethic and demeanor off the ice has been contagious.
When we met the winger near his home in British Columbia in August, his inviting nature - and competitiveness - positioned him to fit in well with his new Black & Gold teammates.
"Seeing him day to day, playing with him as a teammate, I think he’s just a true professional," said Pens captain Sidney Crosby. "Classy guy and works hard every night. And it’s not a surprise why he’s had so much success over his career."
"Everyone knows his resume and I had heard of what a good guy he was and a good teammate and all those nice things people said were true," added Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen, who may be a defenseman, but has looked up to and followed Iginla throughout this career.
"He’s a fun guy to have around and it was cool being on the ice with him every day…and the energy he brought – for a guy who’s been around that long and had that much success – to see the fun he had at the rink every day that was pretty cool, too."
"[He's] played a ton of games and he’s done it the rugged way too. He’s got a lot of miles on him; a lot of hard minutes, hard-fought goals. He’s that well-respected guy that plays the game the right way," added Niskanen, notably eager to expand upon the winger's short time with Pittsburgh.
"He plays with a lot of passion, a lot of grit and skill to boot. So he’s – for our lifetime – he’s one of the better ones. It was a treat having him here and a pretty cool moment for me to say that I played with him."
Now, it's an honor bestowed upon the Bruins, to have the likes of Iginla around.
After 13 regular season and 15 postseason games with Pittsburgh, the winger moved on to Boston as a free agent, and has now suited up in 10 games for the spoked-B.
"Yeah, that’s nice to hear," said Iginla, when I relayed the nice words he received from the opposing locker room. "It feels like I was just here. When you come into town, time flies from March and just part of the playoffs, I’ve never been to anywhere that I've played before so it is a little bit different."
"It’s a little different but it’s exciting. It’s obviously a rivalry, it’s cool to be a part of. I imagine it’s only going to grow and the way the playoffs went last year I imagine the animosity between the two teams will just get more and more and for a few years they’ve been battling near the top of the league so it’s fun to be a part of it."
Wherever he goes, though, it's still the same "Iggy."
"I would say I’m trying to be myself," said Iginla, when asked if he had to adapt to Pittsburgh differently than in Boston now.
"But you learn that along the way and it’s easier said than done all the time but you’re just trying to play hard with the guys and have fun. But the guys in both locker rooms were great and welcoming and now it’s kind of different to be on the other side of it and battling but it’s fun; it’s part of sports."
In addition to his shot, his desire to be part of the team, and part of the process of an NHL season is apparent on a daily basis. He never looks too far ahead, even though the "Ultimate Goal" is still left unclaimed for him.
"We know what he brings on the ice but we also know what he brings off the ice. He’s a real good person, real good leader, he comes to play every night and he prepares well," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, who has singled out Iginla's consistency to start the season.
"He’s a great example for young players besides the guys that we already have in our dressing room. But I think right now it’s about getting through the regular season, getting him to really fit in well, which he has so far."
"It will be probably more towards the end when you get there, you’ve clinched a playoff spot, then you start to thinking a little bit about [Iginla winning a Stanley Cup]."
"Right now I would say it’s too far away and we just want him to be a guy that’s going to contribute and obviously replace some of the key players we lost from last year."
And as of now, the "consummate professional" is doing just that, on - and off - the ice.