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.
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  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.”