When 19-year NHL veteran Jarome Iginla chose to sign with the Colorado Avalanche in the offseason he did so knowing he was joining a young dressing room, but he didn’t arrive in Denver looking to change much.
“I just want to come and honestly just work and prepare each day, play whatever role is given and play hard,” said Iginla. “It’s not like trying to come up with any sayings or anything like that, they’ve been around a long time especially for how young they are.”
Colorado was in the middle of the pack as the 15th youngest team in the league last season, but with Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene – the corner stones of the franchise – all under the age of 23, the 37-year-old has left an impact early in the season.
“They had a great year last year, they’ve been improving so much and there’s a lot of young stars in the room,” said Iginla. “You talk to Duch, he’s been in the league six years, he’s only 23 so it’s not like… it’s a young team, but it’s not an extremely inexperienced team. A lot of these guys have a had a lot of success already.”
For Landeskog, a young captain, having Iginla around has been beneficial.
“He certainly comes in and brings a lot of leadership and a lot of that quiet leadership and the experience that he’s got,” said Landeskog, 21. “Certainly a lot of fun to be around and a lot of fun to see how he works and goes about his business on a day-to-day basis. He’s certainly brought a lot.”
Added Duchene, “You learn a lot from him. I think he’s one of those guys that he’s good for a reason. He puts the work in, he takes care of himself, he sees the game well. He lives and breathes it. It’s just amazing to see the passion and drive a 37-year-old who has done so much can still have.”
When Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf broke into the league as a 20-year-old with the Calgary Flames, the impact a then 28-year-old Iginla had on the defenseman was significant.
“For me, he was great to me when I came in as a young guy in helping me find my way into the National Hockey League,” said Phaneuf. “The biggest thing that I learned from him is how hard he works on and off the ice. He’s a guy that played extremely hard for his team, stuck up for his teammates, played a hard style of hockey and he scored goals.
“He’s a guy that I can’t say enough good things about. He taught me a lot about what it took to, not only break into the NHL, but how to be a professional and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.”
Despite his age, Iginla has shown no real sign of slowing down. The Edmonton, Alberta native was tied for the team lead in goals (30) in Boston last season and finished third in points (61) behind only David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
“So far, he’s very good for us,” said coach Patrick Roy. “He’s an experienced player, works really hard when he’s on the ice. I think he shows a lot of good examples for our guys.”
No matter the reason he signed in Colorado during the offseason, the Avs are happy to have him.
“I know he wants the cup so bad,” said Duchene. “He picked us to try and win it with and it’s a big compliment for us.”