Getty Images

Alex Tanguay on his time playing with the ‘ultra-competitive’ Jarome Iginla

1 Comment

The type of passes didn’t matter. They could have been hard to the tape or maybe a little off the tape, but Jarome Iginla would make sure that the pucks coming off of Alex Tanguay’s stick would find a way to the net. Many, many times those pucks would find their way into the net. Such was the life of playing alongside a forward who would finish his career with 625 goals.

“The shooting ability was second to none,” Tanguay told Pro Hockey Talk recently. “When you go from thinking about how he was able to one-time the puck, there’s very few people that can shoot the puck like Jarome Iginla does. You think of [Alex] Ovechkin, you think of [Steven] Stamkos, you think of guys like that as far as ability to shoot — that’s when I look at Jarome. 

“I remember how hard and where I was passing the puck, no guys would be able to do that. He was truly had a knack for scoring that way. I used to pass it as hard as I could and I knew that he was going to find a way to get it on net and get it hard on net and get in a position where the goalie would not be there. I used to pass it a little on his front foot or make a bad pass on the back foot, and he would still find a way to get it on net. He had very, very unique abilities and we were a good complement in the fact that I was more of a playmaker, more of a passer.”

After joining the Calgary Flames before the 2006-07 NHL season, Tanguay found himself playing with Iginla. The playmaker and the goal scorer. It would come as no surprise that the two clicked well on a line together, with Iginla scoring 39 times and hitting the 90-point total for the second time in his career. Tanguay would reach the 20-goal mark for the fourth straight season and also record career highs with 59 assists and 81 points.

Tanguay, who’s now an analyst on NHL Network, would spend one more season in Calgary before returning for the start of the 2010-11 campaign. That would be the second of five straight playoff-less springs for the Flames. And as the lockout-shortened 2013 season began and success didn’t arrive, it was time for the team to head in a different direction.

[Jarome Iginla retires from the NHL]

That direction meant trading their captain and heart and soul in Iginla. The split was inevitable, but it was difficult. He had been woven into the fabric of the city, set down roots there and had grown up there following the trade from Dallas when he was 18 years old.

“Most Calgary Flames fans would have like to seen him a Flame for his whole career but it just didn’t work out that way,” Tanguay said. “The team was going in a different direction at the time. They were going to go younger. They were going to make some changes to draft some of the core players that they have now. To get that and to start doing that, they traded [Jay] Bouwmeester, they traded Jarome, they traded assets to get more value to rebuild.

“But it was sad. As a friend, I was sad to see Jarome go, for sure.”

The topic of Iginla’s eventual departure wasn’t a huge one topic inside the Flames’ dressing room. It would come up, but most of the conversations between the players were about their families and other things happening in their lives. 

“It was probably more in his mind than the rest of us,” said Tanguay. “Most athletes go through situations like that and he handled it like a true professional and true gentleman.”

When Iginla was finally traded in late March to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the void inside the room was noticeable. The Flames would finish near the bottom of the Pacific Division and Western Conference as a new era dawned. The star attraction was gone.

“For superstars like this, the rupture is always a little bit harder,” said Tanguay. “Everything they mean in the city for the organization, for the fans… those are guys that sell your seats because, let’s be honest, most people don’t go pay to see the guys at the bottom of the lineup — they go to see the superstars. They’re the ones that sell the jerseys. They’re the ones that your fans want to see first and foremost and certainly Jarome was that for the better part [16] years in Calgary.”

Iginla and Tanguay wouldn’t be separated for long. Knowing how well they performed together in Calgary, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic had Tanguay sell Iginla on coming to join the Colorado Avalanche. It worked, and a three-year deal was hammered out ahead of the 2014-15 season.

Despite being apart for a season-and-a-half, the chemistry still was present when Iginla and Tanguay hopped over the boards together. They knew how to work together and often times there wasn’t a need to communicate while on the ice. Each player knew where the other would be and they excelled with Iginla scoring 29 goals and Tanguay hitting 20 goals and recording 55 points, his best totals in four seasons. 

“All those little things that you work on for years, sometimes it helps to have that chemistry with guys and that’s why you see some of the best players in today’s game — [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Anze] Kopitar — sometimes there’s certain guys that click with them,” said Tanguay.

“Jarome was a superstar in the way that he scored goals and the way that he played in Calgary and he connected with a few of those guys. You think of [Craig] Conroy who was brought back because he had a great connection with him. You think of [Mike] Cammalleri [who] had a couple of stints with him in Calgary. I guess I was lucky enough to fall in that trail for a little bit.”

What put Iginla into the superstar class was his desire, added Tanguay. He was a prototypical power forward who, if you were in the way, would make sure you moved or were moved. The traits he possessed, on and off the ice, that made him great and into a future Hall of Famer, were appreciated by those around him.

“The thing that I liked about him was he was ultra-competitive and ultra-passionate about what he did,” said Tangauy. “I think that it showed in the way he played. It showed in his character and the integrity he showed off the ice. 

“All in all, he’s one of the guys that for how good he is, he would always make time, he would always be polite with the people around him and that’s a great gift that he had and that he still possesses today.”

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

Leave a comment

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says teams in his state can return to their facilities for training after a pause of more than two months.

”Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference Sunday.

The New York City area was one of the hardest-hit parts of the U.S. by the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 deaths and new infections in the state have been trending downward.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are discussing the resumption of their seasons with their players’ unions.

”I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena – do it! Do it!” Cuomo said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

WCHA’s Alabama-Huntsville cuts hockey program

Leave a comment

Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

2 Comments

Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

In a four-day span May 13-16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision, according to The Canadian Press.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an email.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to just resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is a key element of NHL business. Clubs are loathe to part with it.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

Toronto Maple Leafs season-ticket holders had to declare they wanted their money back by Victoria Day or a credit would be applied to their accounts.

Their Montreal Canadiens counterparts had to make a decision by Friday, while the Vancouver Canucks’ deadline is June 3.

NHLPA board approves 24-team, return-to play-format

11 Comments

We have our first step towards resuming the 2019-20 season with the approval of the return-to-play format by the NHLPA Executive Board.

The 31 NHL team representatives voted and a majority gave the thumbs up to the 24-team, conference-based proposal.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the vote was 29-2 in favor.

Now the plan moves on to the Board of Governors for their approval.

From the NHLPA:

The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.

If the BOG green lights it, the next steps would include figuring out proper safety protocols for all involved and how the hub city plan would work, among numerous other details.

Based on points percentage at the time of the March 12 NHL pause, the top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, Dallas) will receive a first-round bye. Round 1 will feature eight play-in matchups in a best-of-five series.

As the play-in round takes place, the eight conference leaders could potentially take part in a mini tournament that will determine the seeding for Round 2. Reseeding after the play-in round is another topic likely to be discussed.

Here’s what it might end up looking like:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Bruins
• Lightning
• Capitals
• Flyers

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Blues
• Avalanche
• Golden Knights
• Stars

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

Games would be played without fans with teams based in hub cities potentially located in both the U.S. and Canada. Columbus, Las Vegas, and Edmonton are a few of the cities that have shown interested in playing host to playoff games.

Since the 24-team format entered the rumor mill, it’s received a mixed reaction from players.

“Twenty-four teams sounds like a lot of teams to me,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson told Mike Tirico on Thursday. “You have to make sure there is some level playing field in terms of intensity…So while 24 teams sounds like a lot, maybe due to logistics, that makes the most sense.”

“I will say that when it comes to the format I think it is almost impossible to make everyone happy … the situation is what it is,” Lars Eller of the Capitals said via the Washington Post. “It is far from perfect. We are going to manage the best we can and I do think we will come together and find a solution regarding that. It is not going to be easy.”

Kris Letang told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that Penguins players voted “yes” on the proposal citing “greater good for everyone.”

“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want,” Letang said. “But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”

MORE:
Predators’ Duchene: ‘You don’t want to have a COVID Cup’
Our Line Starts podcast: Evaluating fairness of 24-team NHL playoff

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.