The Boston Bruins brought the Calgary Flames former captain home. You could feel the anticipation of Jarome Iginla’s return in the air as soon as you walked into the Saddledome last night. There were more Iginla jerseys on the concourse than I have ever seen before. It was an ocean of number 12s as I made my way to my seat, anxious to give Jarome the goodbye that we weren’t afforded last season before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I believe that last night was as much for the fans as it was for Jarome. The arena was electric with expectations. When Iggy took the ice for warm-ups, the fans erupted in a fit of excitement that I’ve never heard before. And then the chanting started. Before the anthem, as the players lined up, the tribute began and it was an incessant buzz of chanting, cheering, and applause for the former captain who led the Flames down the Red Mile and beyond.
Tears ran down the faces of some of those who had witnessed those golden moments in the NHL career of Jarome Iginla as the tribute played out on the big screen above. Through Iginla’s first goal to his 500th, through more than 1200 games, and throughout the 16 years that he played for the Flames, there wasn’t a person in the building who wasn’t affected by the abundance of emotion.
The standing ovation during the tribute was something that I am proud to have been part of. Yes, I was one of those people who cheered loud and proud, “IGGY! IGGY! IGGY!” And so was my young son. I’m sure once he’s older and realizes what this game meant to Iginla fans, my son will be very happy that this was his first NHL game.
Those chants continued through most of the first period. Every time Jarome stepped onto the ice for a shift or got the puck on his stick, the chanting continued where it left off a few moments before. The Flames kept up to the flu-ridden Boston Bruins in the first period. Hudler scored the Flames first and only goal in the second period. And I really don’t think anyone in the Saddledome was too disappointed that the Bruins came back to win it in the third period because, I believe, there was a part of each of us who wanted Iggy to get his last goal on Flames ice.
Just after Berra was pulled from net for the extra attacker, Jarome got his stick on the puck and the cheering began again. When his shot on net went wide, there was a defeated sigh from the crowd. The second time he got his stick on the puck, Kris Russell stole it away from him and skated it down the ice. Iginla did not get his goal in the Saddledome at that game.
Jarome gave back to his Flames fans after the final buzzer. As he took his final lap around the Dome ice and the Iggy Dance played on the screen above, Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Boston Bruins stayed behind the bench and the Bruins fans in the crowd cheered just as loud as the Flames fans. It was a night full of respect, admiration, class, and integrity on behalf of all the players and fans.
It may have taken the better part of a year, but we, the Iginla fans, finally got to say goodbye to the player, the man, the legend that is Jarome Iginla. Thank you Bruins and Bruins fans for bringing our captain back to us for one more night so we could give him the final goodbye that he so rightfully deserved. These are the moments that make us all one big happy hockey family.
Please take care of our Iggy and get him that cup!