Friday, April 11, 2008

Playoff Primer: Jarome Iginla

One of the fun things about the playoffs is getting to see players we don't see in the East on a more regular basis. And one of the beauties of the internet is all the information at your fingertips. Even if you go into a series knowing very little about a player, you can find out a lot about him in a short time. I spent a chunk of yesterday reading about Jarome Iginla so I thought I'd share some of that with you. Then we can all say we learned something new today. (Unless you're already an Iginla expert. In that case, you'll have to go somewhere else for your knowledge today.)

- His full name is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tij Junior Elvis Iginla. Arthur-Leigh is his dad's middle name. Adekunle is his dad's first name and Elvis is what his dad changed his name to when he moved to North America. Tij is after his dad's dad, Tijani.

- His dad is Nigerian, his mother North American (born in the United States, grew up in Alberta). Iginla means "big tree" in Yoruba.

- His parents divorced when he was not quite two and he was raised by his mom and her parents. His mom worked multiple jobs during Jarome's childhood.

All together now... Awwwwwwwww!

- Growing up, Jarome was also a very good baseball player and played on traveling teams (pitcher, catcher, and a little shorstop). He really admired Bo Jackon (a total plus in my book) and for a long time hoped to follow in his footsteps and become a two sport pro. He played baseball until he was seventeen before finally deciding to focus solely on hockey.

- When his mom went back to school as an adult, Jarome paid her tuition. (I'm not gonna lie, as the proud daughter of a hard-working single mother, that chokes me up a little. This is probably my favorite thing I read about Iggy.)

- He and his wife Kara run (or used to run) a hockey camp for kids 6-12-years-old. They try to teach the kids skills but the focus is on enjoying playing hockey. "They love the speed, being able to crash around. Sports for kids sometimes get a little too serious, and my wife and I wanted our school not to be. We want to teach skills, but we believe the more fun the kids are having, the harder they'll work and the better they'll get without even trying."

- The best story I read about Iggy: The night before Game 7 of a first-round playoff series against Vancouver, he and some teammates went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Vancouver where a wedding party was going on. As the players were leaving, a little boy yelled from his booster seat, "Bye, Iggy!" Iginla walked over to the little boy, put him on his knee, and talked hockey with him. He then signed autographs and posed for pictures with everyone in the party before leaving and didn't seem to be in any rush to get back to his hotel.

- In a season where the headlines and Hart debates were dominated by Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, Iginla quietly had a 50 goal, 98 point season. That's pretty good.

- My favorite thing about his goal in Game One of the San Jose series was not that he blew by Brian Campbell - although I did enjoy that - but that even while plowing into the net he was thinking clearly enough to put his arm down on top of the net and attempt to hold it in its moorings for any follow-up shot. That's an assist.

- For my money, Iggy has the single best smile in the NHL. And it existed before Ovechkin was in the NHL so there!

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

"Jarome Iginla" as told to Brian Cazeneuve, Sports Illustrated
"The Great Iginla" by Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
"They Should Not Win" by Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated
Thanks to Anne at Sabretooth's House for finding the adorable picture of little Iggy. I totally stole it from her.


Pookie said...

I've been pretty unimpressed with Iginla over the years because I never see him play and I'm not a huge traditional-power-forward kinda gal, but I will say the tidbit about him paying his mother's tuition so she could go back to school as an adult is really awesome. Thanks for enlightening me about Iginla!

TheSharpie said...

No mention of the Sabres' prospects playing for the NCAA championship tonight? Gerber even had a hat trick in the semi-final game, and the other Boston College player to score is also a Sabres prospect. It's even on ESPN.

Heather B. said...

Sharpie, maybe in the next post! We have actually been flipping back and forth between Montreal-Boston and BC-ND.

karen said...

Nice write-up! In my handful of non-Sabres hockey stuff, I have an Iginla figure. I've always thought he is a standup guy and you're right about his great smile.

brian s. said...

Great post. Iginla has been one of my favorite non-Sabres since the year they played Tampa Bay in the Finals and him and Lecavalier got into a fight behind the net. It's great when the two best players on their respective teams are so into the game that they end up beating each other up.

Katie said...

Thanks for spreading the Iggy love, Heather! He has been probably my favorite Western Conference player for about two years now. Every time he's on TV I say the same thing - "Now that's a captain!"

That story about him and the wedding is too sweet, and yet totally something I expect from him.

And yes, he does have the best smile in the NHL, and possibly the best in all of sports. You can't help but feel warm and fuzzy looking at it!

Anne said...

The whole world needs to experience that baby picture. Spread it around, all who see it!

Excellent post about Iggy! I knew who he was before this season, but didn't fully witness his awesomeness until I swooned over his smile at the All-Star Game. I love love that story about him talking to that little guy at the wedding reception. Sighs.