Red-hot Jarome Iginla is a big reason Calgary is in the playoff
The Flames can mark their resurgence this year by the
improvement in Jarome Iginla's numbers or in his nicknames. When
Iginla didn't score in his first 11 games and his team didn't
win in regulation in its first 19 matches, The Calgary Sun
dubbed Iginla, a fourth-year right wing, Iggy Flop.
These days Iginla, who missed the first three games of the
season while holding out--he signed for $5 million over three
years--is being called Iggy Pop and Iggy Top, and through Sunday
the Flames had moved to within three points of the final Western
Conference playoff berth. Iginla was the NHL's player of the
month in February, during which he led the league in goals (10)
and points (21) and was +11. His string of games in which he
scored reached a league season-high 16 before ending on March 7
against the Avalanche. "The streak was cool, my first taste of
playing like that," says Iginla, whose Flames missed the
postseason in each of his first three years. "This season I feel
stronger, more comfortable."
Last summer Iginla went home to Edmonton to train with Lou
Edwards, a track coach whose drills included sprints and hurdles.
"I used to do a lot of bodybuilding, which slowed me down," says
the 6'1", 202-pound Iginla, whose 54 points through Sunday were a
career high. "I've had more breakaways this year." Iginla has
always been strong on the puck, but with a quicker first step he
now gets to more of them. With wing Valeri Bure, who had 35
goals, playing on a different line and drawing top defenders,
Iginla often faces less adept checkers whom he can overpower. "We
collided in practice once," says Marc Savard, Iginla's center.
"It was like hitting a tree."
Iginla's name means "big tree" in the Yoruba language of his
Nigerian-born father, Elvis, who moved to Edmonton, and split up
with his American wife, Susan Schuchard, when Jarome was two. It
was Susan's father, Rick, who introduced Jarome to hockey.
Jarome played goal until he was nine because he hoped to grow up
to be like his hero, Grant Fuhr, netminder for the Oilers'
five-time Stanley Cup champions. Now Fuhr, who's the Flames'
backup, is Iginla's mentor, offering tips on how to beat
opposing keepers and giving the positive reinforcement Iginla
rarely gets from coach Brian Sutter.
After scoring 50 points as a rookie, Iginla dipped to 32 when
Sutter replaced Pierre Page behind the bench in 1997-98. "If I
had a bad game, Pierre would say, 'Put the pressure behind you.'"
Iginla says. "Brian's more intense. It took time to see he just
wanted me to do better."
Tkaczuk's Golf Course
CADDIES WHO DON'T TALK
Three years ago, when former NHL player Walter Tkaczuk needed a
way to attract golfers to the nine-hole course he co-owns in St.
Marys, Ont., he brought in Lorenzo Llama to caddie. Now, for $52
a round, patrons at the River Valley Golf and Country Club can
hire one of four llamas to carry their clubs. Tkaczuk got the
idea from Howard Burgin, a neighbor who raises llamas and who
persuaded Tkaczuk they would neither drink the water hazard nor
fertilize the fairway. "They're tame and patient," says Tkaczuk,
who retired in 1981 after 14 years with the Rangers, "and, like
cats in their boxes, they go in one place."
Golfers reserve a llama and its handler a week in advance, and
players are paired because the llamas tote two bags to balance
their two-sided saddles. Tkaczuk jokes that the animals are so
perceptive he might use one to locate missing balls hit by former
teammates Brad Park and Steve Vickers. For that he may need the
higher power of the Dalai Llama.
TIME TO BUCKLE UP FOR SAFETY
NHL players who watched Canuck Donald Brashear's head hit the ice
after getting struck by Bruin Marty McSorley's stick on Feb. 21
should use common sense and tighten their chin straps. Brashear
may have already been unconscious after the blow from McSorley,
but because he, like many NHL players, had a loose chin strap,
his helmet was coming off as he fell. The impact of Brashear's
head hitting the ice, rather than McSorley's stick across the
temple, could have caused the concussion. "The helmet can't work
if it isn't on your head," says Willem Meeuwisse, a doctor and
chairman of the league's injury committee.
Two days after Brashear's injury the Flames' training staff
posted a notice on a bulletin board in the Calgary dressing room
that read, "How many fingers can you fit between your chin and
your chin strap?" Flyers captain Eric Lindros feels a strap is
secure even if "you keep it loose enough to insert two fingers."
Meeuwisse disagrees: He blames the concussion Lindros suffered
two years ago, when his helmet popped off after a collision with
the Penguins' Darius Kasparaitis, on a loose chin strap. Though
the league has no rule about chin straps, Meeuwisse says hockey
helmets should be fastened at the chin as tightly as football
helmets are. To that end, Oilers trainer Ken Lowe keeps track of
how often Edmonton players lose their helmets. Jason Arnott, who
played for the Oilers in the mid-1990s, lost his helmet so often
that Lowe secretly shortened Arnott's strap.
"You can't tell guys who've been in the league 10, 12 years how
to wear their equipment," says Canadiens forward and NHL Players'
Association president Trevor Linden. "It's like seat belts. It's
up to the person to buckle up."
COLOR PHOTO: TODD KOROL In February, Iginla led the league in goals and points, and was named NHL player of the month.
COLOR PHOTO: D. CLARK/B. BENNETT STUDIOS (FAR LEFT)
COLOR PHOTO: B. BENNETT/B. BENNETT STUDIOS
WHOM WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE?
At 5'11" and 175 pounds, he's small but gritty. The fourth-year
veteran had 43 points in 68 games through Sunday and was tied for
the Philadelphia lead with five game-winning goals.
At 6'2" and 190 pounds, he has good size but isn't very gritty.
The fourth-year veteran had 45 points in 64 games at week's end
and was tied for the Ottawa lead with four game-winning goals.
The Verdict: Prospal has picked up some of the slack left by
Alexei Yashin's holdout, but we like Langkow's well-rounded game.