CALGARY, CANADA - JANUARY 7: Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames is congratulated on his 500th goal by Miikka Kiprusoff #34 of the Calgary Flames playing against the Minnesota Wild during third period NHL action on January 7, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)
It's not this goal. It's all of them. All five hundred.
To say it's a rare feat in a league that ices about seven hundred skaters a season and has been in existence for nearly one hundred years is nothing. As only the 42nd player to achieve this, Iginla finds himself in rare company. More amazing still: he's only thirty-four years old, and while his prime has passed, he has plenty of years to climb the all-time goal scoring chart. Six hundred is hardly out of reach.
It's likely a feat that will never be truly replicated: sure, we'll see Alexander Ovechkin reach the mark someday; Marian Hossa as well- though that'll probably be around the time Iginla (god willing) passes Jari Kurri at 601; even Ilya Kovalchuk has an outside shot given the right linemates and circumstances. But none of them will do it the way Iginla did.
Iginla didn't just score five hundred. Iginla scored five hundred. He never had the pleasure of lining up with top flight players with the exception of Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri a few times, and they're hardly on the level of most of the linemates the rest of the 500+ goal scorers, past and future, have had.
Iginla had no Gretzky- or even a Messier to line up with, he didn't play in the era where goaltending resembled those cardboard cutouts you shoot on (his adjusted goals, according to Hockey Reference, are at 569) and he suffered through coach after coach with offense limiting tactics- not to mention GM after GM who completely failed to understand how to acquire and retain quality players. As Ryan Lambert pointed out, "His best season ever - in which he led the league with 52 goals and 96 points - came with Craig Conroy and Dean McAmmond on his line."
And Iginla persisted. Jarome Iginla carried a terrible team kicking and screaming to the Stanley Cup finals. Jarome Iginla scored 30 goals for ten consecutive seasons. Jarome Iginla has become a Calgary icon- and for more than just his play on the ice: starting hockey schools, visiting hospitals, visiting and playing ball hockey with Canadian troops in Afghanistan; Jarome Iginla isn't a Calgary Flame legend- Jarome Iginla is a Calgary legend.
His future with the club is uncertain, given the direction the Flames are going and the direction most fans would like to see Iginla go (the direction which involves him raising a Stanley Cup over his head), but one thing is certain: Jarome Iginla didn't just carry the Calgary Flames for fourteen years: Jarome Iginla was the Calgary Flames, and no matter where he goes from here in the world of hockey, Jarome Iginla will always be a Calgary Flame.
Previously: The Beauty of Jarome Iginla and 1000 Points