Former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla announces his retirement from the NHL, after playing 20 seasons, at a news conference in Calgary on Monday, July 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A star for Canada, ‘Iggy’ retires after 20 NHL seasons

Jarome Iginla officially retired Monday in Calgary, where he led the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final

Jarome Iginla shed no tears, but generated laughs Monday as one of the NHL’s premiere power forwards closed the book on a 20-year career.

The 41-year-old entertained a packed news conference at Scotiabank Saddledome, where he spent 16 seasons as a Calgary Flame and almost a decade as captain, with funny stories and his heartfelt love of hockey.

“I was very fortunate to have a very blessed career,” Iginla said.

He bade farewell with the charisma and graciousness that made him a loved player in Calgary and admired throughout league.

That congeniality was always in contrast, however, to his feared fierceness on the ice.

“If we needed a fight, if we needed a big hit, if we needed a big goal, he was there to do it,” said his former Flames linemate Craig Conroy, now Calgary’s assistant general manager.

“For about three or four years, I don’t think there was a better player in the NHL. I think at times we did take him for granted.

“To know he’s going to retire a Calgary Flame today is pretty special.”

READ MORE: Jarome Iginla to retire in Calgary

Iginla’s 625 career goals ties him with Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic for 15th in NHL history. An assist in his final game April 9, 2017, with the Los Angeles Kings gives him an even 1,300 points in 1,554 games.

But few players have impacted a franchise the way Iginla did in Calgary, where he played from 1996 to 2013.

He’s the franchise leader in goals (525), points (1,095), games played (1,219) and game-winning goals (83).

“Even though I was from Edmonton, nobody held it against me,” Iginla said. “To get to play in Alberta was a real treat.”

Iginla twice scored 50 goals in a season for the Flames, surpassed 40 goals four times and reached the 30-goal mark 11 times.

He led the Flames to the Stanley Cup final in 2004, when Calgary lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But a Cup eluded Iginla in what will be a Hockey Hall of Fame career. The Flames didn’t come close again during his tenure.

Calgary was about to miss the playoffs a fourth straight season when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in March of 2013.

Iginla played for Boston, Colorado and Los Angeles to finish out his career.

He underwent hip surgery in 2017. Iginla skated with a minor pro team in February to test both his hip and the market for a possible return.

“It’s not easy quitting and I found one of the hardest things was I always dreamed about being part of a winner and winning a Stanley Cup,” he said.

“It took me a few days or a week when you realize you’re not going to get that chance and that dream is not going to come true, but I have so many things to be thankful for.”

The Canadian Press

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