The Calgary Flames aren't represented in the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class. But long-time captain Jarome Iginla is expected to be a first-ballot selection when the induction committee meets in June to decide the 2020 inductees.
Iginla represents a rarity in the modern game, a player whose candidacy is rock solid from virtually every angle. He was a stellar amateur and an excellent pro. He had success as an individual and as a leader of a team. He has a spotless international resume and is one of the most historically significant players of his generation.
A product of St. Albert, Alta., who came up through the Edmonton suburb's minor hockey program, Iginla was a superb player in bantam and midget but found another level to his game with the Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers. In three seasons with Kamloops, he won two WHL titles, two Memorial Cups, captured the WHL's player of the year award and was named the Canadian Hockey League's most sportsmanlike player.
Selected by the Dallas Stars 11th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, Iginla was traded to the Flames with Corey Millen in December 1995 in exchange for Joe Nieuwendyk. Iginla debuted in the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs and became a full-time NHLer the following season. From the moment Iginla entered the NHL in 1996-97 until his final game in 2016-17, no player scored more goals or played more games.
Iginla captured one Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's scoring leader and two Rocket Richard Trophies as the goal-scoring leader. He sits tied for 16th in league history in goals with 625 (with Joe Sakic), 34th in points with 1,300 and 14th in games played (1,554). Every eligible player with more goals or games than Iginla is in the Hall of Fame, while Pierre Turgeon is the only eligible player with more points not inducted.
Aside from a Stanley Cup, Iginla captured virtually every significant team trophy at the club or international level. In addition to his Memorial Cups, he was part of Hockey Canada squads that won gold at the World Juniors, World Championships and World Cup. The peak of his playing career was book-ended by a pair of Olympic gold medals – a 2002 triumph in Canada's first Olympic crown in 50 years and a 2010 win capped by his iconic assist on Sidney Crosby's “golden goal.”
In addition to his laundry list of team and individual on-ice accolades, Iginla was extremely well-regarded throughout the hockey world for his charitable nature and leadership qualities. Considered the first black captain in NHL history, he captained the Flames for a decade and was a recipient of the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2009. He was heavily involved in philanthropy during his career, capturing the NHL Foundation Player Award and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
Iginla represents a significant slice of Canadian hockey history, similar to Paul Henderson; but, he also boasts one of the most impressive resumes of his generation. Both feared and respected throughout the hockey world for his playing style and skill, all Iginla ever did was win — with the possible exception of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. His place in the Hockey Hall of Fame is assured. Try to look surprised when it's announced next June.