Former WHL star Iginla retires after illustrious NHL career

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One of hockey’s all-time greats walked away from the game Monday morning.

After 20 NHL seasons, former Kamloops Blazers star Jarome Iginla announced his retirement from hockey at a press conference hosted by the Calgary Flames.

Iginla, a 41-year-old product of St. Albert, Alta., was voted as the seventh best player in Western Hockey League history during the WHL’s 50th season celebrations in 2015-16.

Prior to a successful international and professional career, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound power forward cut his teeth in the WHL as a member of the legendary Blazers squads of the early 1990s.

Iginla broke into the WHL during the 1993-94 season, and immediately made an impact, registering 29 points (6G-23A) in 48 regular season games as a 16-year-old rookie. He went on to add another nine points (3G-6A) in 19 WHL playoff games during 1994, as the Blazers won their first of back-to-back WHL Championships. From there, Iginla and the Blazers claimed the 1994 Memorial Cup championship.

Success continued into the 1994-95 WHL season as Iginla broke out by scoring 71 points (33G-38A) in 72 regular season games, adding another 18 points (7G-11A) in 21 games to help fuel the Blazers to a second consecutive WHL Championship, and third in four years. With six points (4G-2A) in four games at the 1995 Memorial Cup, Iginla was named the Most Sportsmanlike Player of the tournament as the Blazers enjoyed a second straight Memorial Cup title.

That breakout campaign pegged Iginla as a can’t-miss prospect heading into the 1995 NHL Draft, where he heard his name called 11th overall by the Dallas Stars. Later that year in the midst of an incredible WHL season, Iginla was dealt from the Stars to the Calgary Flames. It was a blockbuster deal that sent Hall of Fame centre Joe Nieuwendyk to the Lone Star State, setting the stage for Iginla to carry on his success out west as he became a member of the Flames.

The 1995-96 WHL season solidified Iginla as one of the WHL’s greatest players of all-time. In 63 regular season games, Iginla tallied 136 points (63G-73A), being named WHL Player of the Year, and a member of both the WHL and CHL First All-Star teams. That Christmas, Iginla left the Blazers to represent his nation at the 1996 IIHF World Junior Championship. With 12 points (5G-7A) in six contests, Iginla was instrumental in guiding Canada to a World Junior gold medal. He was recognized as the Top Forward at the tournament and named to the tournament all-star team after leading the event in scoring.

Though Iginla and the Blazers were unable to corral a third straight WHL title during the 1996 WHL Playoffs, the power forward still racked up 29 points (16G-13A) in 16 post-season outings as the Spokane Chiefs defeated Kamloops in the WHL’s Western Conference Championship.

Upon being eliminated from the 1996 WHL Playoffs, Iginla immediately graduated to the NHL ranks, where he dressed in two playoff contests with the Flames, notching one goal and one assist.

That marked the end of an illustrious major junior career for a player whom went on to become one of the all-time greatest power forwards hockey has ever seen. Over the course of 183 career WHL regular season games, Iginla registered 236 points, including 102 goals and 134 assists. He added an astounding 56 points (26G-30A) in 56 WHL Playoff games, winning two WHL Championships alongside two Memorial Cup titles – all with the Kamloops Blazers.

Over 20 professional seasons, Iginla tallied 1,300 points (625G-675A) in 1,554 career regular season games with five teams – the Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. He posted 68 points (37G-31A) in 81 NHL playoff games, coming within one win of the 2004 Stanley Cup title with the Flames.

Despite falling short with the Flames during their run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, Iginla parlayed his WHL success into further success as his career continued.

He won another IIHF World Junior Championship with Canada in 1997 and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team for the 1996-97 season. In 2001-02, Iginla led the NHL in goal scoring (52) and points (96), claiming the Maurice Richard Trophy and Art Ross Trophy, respectively. He was also voted by members of the NHLPA as the NHL MVP, being presented with the prestigious Ted Lindsay Award for his achievement. The crowning moment for Iginla in 2002 came when he won an Olympic gold medal with Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake.

Iginla won another Maurice Richard Trophy in 2003-04, scoring 41 goals. He also took home the King Clancy Trophy in recognition of his leadership and humanitarian efforts in the community. Iginla also won the World Cup of Hockey in the fall of 2004 with Canada, adding further hardware to his international mantle.

At the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Iginla was presented with the NHL’s Mark Messier Leadership Award.

Finally, Iginla was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning entry into the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, earning an assist on Sidney Crosby’s famous golden goal.

Overall, Iginla was voted into seven NHL All-Star Games and named to three NHL First All-Star Teams (2001-02, 2007-08, 2008-09).

As of his retirement, Iginla is the Calgary Flames franchise leader in points (1,095), goals (525), games played (1,219), game-winning goals (83), power-play goals (161) and shots on goal (3,992).

Since October 2007, Iginla has been co-owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, alongside governor Tom Gaglardi and WHL Alumni Shane Doan, Mark Recchi, and Darryl Sydor.

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