Red-hot Jarome Iginla is a big reason Calgary is in the playoff hunt
The flames can mark their resurgence this year by the improvement in Jarome Iginla's numbers or in his nicknames. When Iginla didn't score in his first 11 games and his team didn't win in regulation in its first 19 matches, The Calgary Sun dubbed Iginla, a fourth-year right wing, Iggy Flop.
These days Iginla, who missed the first three games of the season while holding out—he signed for $5 million over three years—is being called Iggy Pop and Iggy Top, and through Sunday the Flames had moved to within three points of the final Western Conference playoff berth. Iginla was the NHL's player of the month in February, during which he led the league in goals (10) and points (21) and was +11. His string of games in which he scored reached a league season-high 16 before ending on March 7 against the Avalanche. "The streak was cool, my first taste of playing like that," says Iginla, whose Flames missed the postseason in each of his first three years. "This season I feel stronger, more comfortable."
Last summer Iginla went home to Edmonton to train with Lou Edwards, a track coach whose drills included sprints and hurdles. "I used to do a lot of bodybuilding, which slowed me down," says the 6'1", 202-pound Iginla, whose 54 points through Sunday were a career high. "I've had more breakaways this year." Iginla has always been strong on the puck, but with a quicker first step he now gets to more of them. With wing Valeri Bure, who had 35 goals, playing on a different line and drawing top defenders, Iginla often faces less adept checkers whom he can overpower. "We collided in practice once," says Marc Savard, Iginla's center. "It was like hitting a tree."
Iginla's name means "big tree" in the Yoruba language of his Nigerian-born father, Elvis, who moved to Edmonton, and split up with his American wife, Susan Schuchard, when Jarome was two. It was Susan's father, Rick, who introduced Jarome to hockey. Jarome played goal until he was nine because he hoped to grow up to be like his hero, Grant Fuhr, netminder for the Oilers' five-time Stanley Cup champions. Now Fuhr, who's the Flames' backup, is Iginla's mentor, offering tips on how to beat opposing keepers and giving the positive reinforcement Iginla rarely gets from coach Brian Sutter.
After scoring 50 points as a rookie, Iginla dipped to 32 when Sutter replaced Pierre Pag� behind the bench in 1997-98. "If I had a bad game, Pierre would say, 'Put the pressure behind you.' " Iginla says. "Brian's more intense. It took time to see he just wanted me to do better."
Tkaczuk's Golf Course
Caddies Who Don't Talk
Three years ago, when former NHL player Walter Tkaczuk needed a way to attract golfers to the nine-hole course he co-owns in St. Marys, Ont., he brought in Lorenzo Llama to caddie. Now, for $52 a round, patrons at the River Valley Golf and Country Club can hire one of four llamas to carry their clubs. Tkaczuk got the idea from Howard Burgin, a neighbor who raises llamas and who persuaded Tkaczuk they would neither drink the water hazard nor fertilize the fairway. "They're tame and patient," says Tkaczuk, who retired in 1981 after 14 years with the Rangers, "and, like cats in their boxes, they go in one place."
Golfers reserve a llama and its handler a week in advance, and players are paired because the llamas tote two bags to balance their two-sided saddles. Tkaczuk jokes that the animals are so perceptive he might use one to locate missing balls hit by former teammates Brad Park and Steve Vickers. For that he may need the higher power of the Dalai Llama.
Time to Buckle Up for Safety