By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Just by watching Jarome Iginla play through his 20 seasons, one had to marvel at his work ethic and determination.
Practices and games received an equal amount of straight-line, hard-nosed effort from Iginla, who will announce his retirement next Monday in Calgary. Iginla didn’t play last season and finished up his career with 625 goals and 1,300 points.
His work ethic, however, wasn’t relegated to games and practices. Away from the rink he was always looking for an edge and he found it in Boston.
That season he scored 30 goals for the 12th straight season (tying Patrice Bergeron for the team lead) and had 61 points. Iginla was the perfect replacement for Nathan Horton on David Krejci’s right wing and the opposite flank of Milan Lucic.
But his stint in Boston didn’t start smoothly. At 36 years old, it took Iginla eight games to score his first goal for the Bruins. After scoring one goal each in three straight games, he then scored one in his next 11 games. There were whispers he might be at the end of the line.
The struggles were too much for Iginla to bear. Even after one of coach Claude Julien’s official practices, Iginla would keep on working on his game by visiting Glen “Dr. Shot” Tucker’s workout facility in Waltham. There Iginla, who became a regular visitor throughout the season (even on off days and after night games), would continue to shoot hundreds of pucks and go over different strategies and philosophies with Tucker.
The extra work paid off. Iginla was on fire most of the second half of the season and even earned NHL First Star honors in March with 13 goals and 17 points in 17 games. In the playoffs he had seven points (five goals, two assists) in 12 games before the Bruins bowed out against Montreal in seven games in the second round.
So there are a lot of things to remember about Iginla and his relationship with the Bruins, starting with his decision to choose to go to Pittsburgh during the 2013 lockout-shortened season in a trade rather than join Boston after Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli thought he had a deal locked down. Then came Iginla’s signing with Boston that summer for a bonus-laden deal. It carried an initial cap hit of just $1.8 million before he hit all his bonuses and cost the Bruins $4.2 million against their cap while he was playing in the first year of his new contract in Colorado.
On the ice there was his two-goal, two-assist game against Philadelphia in January that really proved he was back to being his dominant self. He had five fights, most memorably one with Ryan Kesler that resulted in a dislocated finger but no time missed by Iginla, who had two assists in the Bruins’ next game.
He took a triumphant lap around the ice in Calgary after returning there with the Bruins and he finished the season with a team-high eight game-winning goals (fourth in the NHL).
But the dedication to his craft Iginla showed that one season in Boston did more than just help him have a great season and aid the Bruins in their effort to defend their Eastern Conference crown. By seeking out extra help and places to work, he set an example for Bruins young and old about how you’ve never been in the league too long to look for improvements and ways to adapt. Among the players Iginla introduced to Tucker that season were Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. While Iginla’s sailing off into the sunset, those two pillars of the Bruins organization are still skating strong and serving as the backbone of a team that has a chance to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Iginla’s next stop after saying farewell next week will be the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’ll be honored mostly for his accomplishments with the Calgary Flames and Team Canada. But his work in his brief time with the Bruins, official and otherwise, deserves to always be remembered as well.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.