Karl Alzner may have grown up a Vancouver Canucks fan in Burnaby, British Columbia, but the future NHL defenseman admits that he couldn’t help but admire Jarome Iginla- for years the best player on the rival Calgary Flames.
“I grew up watching the guy and idolizing him, just seeing how dynamic he was,” Alzner said Thursday of the Flames’ all-time leader in goals, points and games played.
Iginla spent 17 years with the Flames organization before accepting a trade Wednesday night to the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 35-year-old is a six-time NHL All-Star, a two-time 50-goal scorer and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Iginla has 525 career goals and 1095 points in 1219 games and served as Calgary’s captain for the last nine seasons.
“He's not your typical All-Star,” Alzner said. “He's not just out there all flashy. He's so gritty and he likes to throw the mitts every now and then. He's a great player to watch play, and I've had the pleasure of watching him a lot more than a lot of people have. It's good for him that he's moving on and getting an opportunity.”
Alzner moved to Alberta when he was 15-years-old to play for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen- a junior team that just happens to play its home games in the same arena as the Flames. It was during his four years with the Hitmen that Alzner saw firsthand how popular Iginla had become among Calgary hockey fans.
“To see him in any jersey besides a Flames jersey is going to be weird for everybody. He's the most popular guy in that city, the face of that city. It's just very strange that he's not going to be a Flame anymore.”
While Alzner has long admired Iginla from afar, the Capitals defenseman who also makes his offseason home in Calgary got to know Iginla on a personal level during this year’s NHL lockout.
Alzner was among a group of 20 players that skated regularly in Calgary during the NHL work stoppage, taking part in on-ice sessions that were often organized by Iginla and Flames defenseman Cory Sarich.
“He was the guy; he was the go-to guy,” Alzner said.
“I never knew him personally until this summer, but as soon as I sat down [in the dressing room] and put my gear in my stall and we were getting dressed, he was talking lockout with [Alex] Tanguay, [Mark] Giordano. And then mid-conversation he turns to me like I've been in the conversation the entire time and he's explaining, looking at me and talking to me about it. I'm just like, 'Yeah, yeah, exactly. I agree.' Like, thanks for including me in the conversation.
“He makes you feel like you're one of the guys, and that's something that's important. That's hard to do to be that approachable and make people feel at-ease. It's no secret why he's been talked as highly as he's been talked about.”
CAPS TAKE NOTICE:
Iginla is the latest big-name acquisition for the first place Penguins who also traded for Brendan Morrow from the Dallas Stars and Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks within the last five days.
The Penguins are on a 13-game winning streak and host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday with the chance to match the 2009-10 Capitals for the longest winning streak in the shootout era.
With Wednesday’s NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching, Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero has made it quite apparent that his club is all in for a shot at another Stanley Cup.
“For how active they’ve been and the players they got the last couple days- and the cap hit that comes with those players- it’s surprising that they’re able to squeeze in another player like Iginla,” said Capitals forward Troy Brouwer.
“They’ve got a pretty deep team over there with a lot of good players. To not give up an actual roster player means that they’re making a push for it as everyone can see to try and win. I guess they’re going to worry about that later.”
In acquiring Iginla, Morrow, Murray and a 3rd-round pick (Dallas), the Penguins have given up three prospects, a 1st-round pick, two 2nd-round picks and a 5th-round pick.