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Iginla: The Hockey Gods Speak

Iginla to Crosby: The Golden Goal

In the interest of full disclosure the following things may be important:

I am a Canadian and Iginla owns a place in the hockey lore of my country and I am naturally biased. I am a die hard, long time Pens fan. I am a die hard, long time Iginla fan - he was the only reason to watch the Flames at all for many years. And finally, I have watched "The Iggy Heard Around the World" video on YouTube about a thousand times.

I was watching, ironically, a Boston game when the Iggy rumor first broke. The lads and lasses on the ESPN comment boards were beside themselves with glee (and a little gloating). It seemed that Iggy was headed to Boston.

As a Pens fan and a Canadian, I was naturally hoping that the Pens would make a move for him, probably more a sentimental wish than one founded in any particular need I thought he could fill. Frankly, as much as I wanted Iggy, when I got down to where would he play I could never come up with a scenario that worked. Sure, he's Jarome Iginla, but Crosby and Malkin both had very good, very appropriate and very productive right wingers. Was Iggy fast enough for the Pens' game style? Could he even play that wide open, run and gun style anymore?

In the end I decided that trying for a duplicate magic golden moment, an Iggy to Crosby and championship winning goal was probably not realistic. That was a one of. A "brief shining moment". A Camelot thing. It might be like trying to duplicate a snowflake.

The piece of me that is purely a hockey fan applauded the Iggy to Boston rumor and hoped it was true even though that felt vaguely disloyal to my team. After all, Iggy was a fit there in Boston. He could find a place on any of their lines and make an impact. They play a tighter checking, bump and grind style of hockey with shorter passes, more defensively minded playbook entries and less need for speed. Iggy's toughness, size and grind would work well with the Black and Gold. It wasn't a good for Boston thing, because that was way too disloyal, but it was a good for Iggy thing.

And then, of course, Shero announced the Iginla to Pittsburgh trade and I cheered with the rest of the fans. How awesome was that going to be, we all said to each other, metaphoric high fives all around. I watched the Iggy Heard Around The World video again and looked fondly at my Canadian Hockey team t-shirt and waited eagerly for what was to come. 

When he came to us the Pens were on the last legs of of a record setting winning streak, Crosby was healthy and he and his line were tearing up the league in ways that brought people's minds back to the good old days when there were power lines that were just so much better than anyone else that it almost seemed unfair. Kunitz and Dupuis, journeyman wingers, were having the season of their respective lives and Kris Letang was really digging into his potential. Those were the halcyon days, as it turned out.

I still didn't understand where Iggy was going to fit, but I trusted Shero and Bylsma and waited eagerly to see what was in store.

Like every other Pens fan in existence, I watched him come out for his first shift with something approaching Christmas morning excitement. Iggy. On the Pens. Wow. Just wow.

And then Brooks Orpik did something he almost never does. He sent a zinger of a slapshot towards the Islanders' net. Before the "Orpie!" shout was fully formed another one materialized and came unbidden from my mouth. It started with "F" and ended with "uck" and had a pile of exclamation points at the end. Crosby was down. And from the blood on the ice, he wasn't just down, he was hurt and he wasn't just hurt, he was injured.

And then, in relation to Iggy, it all went to hell in a handbasket.

With Crosby out of the line the Pens brought in Jussi Jokinen to replace him in the circle and on shootouts. Which should have ended the problem without any ripple effect. It's not like we didn't have Malkin to step into the hole. Right?


And the great line changing experiment of 2013 was underway.

Never in all my years of hockey fandom have I been so frustrated with a coach. 

To start with Iginla was asked to play on his off-wing. Okay, here's a guy who has made a career of potting slappers from the right point with his right handed stick. Here's a guy who has posted season after season of elite numbers doing exactly that.

So, naturally, it's hard to understand why he's playing left wing.

And then he flipped from one line to the next, from one role to another, from one partner to a new one ... until fans started saying "NO COMMENT" when his name came up and analysts all over the country started asking WTF in various shades of journalist-speak.

Sure, we understood there was not going to be a Crosby-Iggy line - Crosby was busy having his jaw repaired, his teeth replaced and his tongue sewn back on. But ... but ... but ... oh there are so many buts in this story.

Why did we get a right wing, right handed shot if we had no place for him? If he was intended for Crosby's line then he should have been on Jokinen's. The chemistry should have been brewing, awaiting the return of Sid. Other than the powerplay, Iggy was always uncomfortable looking, a little uncertain ... and if you know Iggy like I know Iggy ... it marked the first time in his entire playing career that he didn't seem to ... fit. Players like Iggy find a way to fit and it takes something of a concentrated effort, in my opinion, to make them uncomfortable.

But Bylsma was up to the task, it seems.

I was embarrassed.. Angry. Frustrated. I wanted Iggy to revolt, rebel, go on strike. I wanted someone to do something. It was like watching Crosby being asked to play a grit game on the 4th line and block some shots.

It sucked. Really, really sucked.

Going Where He Belongs

But Iggy is what he is and the Hockey Gods, apparently, are not indifferent to the plight of those annointed "great".

And this is the hockey fan speaking now - the Pens fan is tied up and locked in the garage.

I could not be happier that the Bruins got Iggy. That he signed with them. The hell with what that means to the Pens or says about them. The Bruins are a perfect team for Iggy. They're  a stylistic match made in heaven and Iggy will be a bona fide factor when he's on the ice. Presumably at right wing. He will make an impact there ... and although I cannot come right out and wish they win a Stanley Cup, I sort of do. I wish Iggy wins one, anyway.

He's a warrior. A great player. A stand up human being. A natural leader. A work horse. He made a pass once, from his knees, along the boards, through traffic and set up the goal that won my country the gold medal at the hometown Winter Olympics. He owns that moment exactly as much as the guy who flicked the puck into the net.

And I want that guy - that "Iggy" to have the other moment in the sun every hockey player craves ... hoisting the cup.

He's exactly where he belongs, ironically. He ended up in the right place, after all. Good for him. Good for hockey and, damn it, good for the Bruins.