Calgary's emerging star Jarome Iginla has muscled to the top of the league in scoring
To the frequent appearances on the highlight shows that had been the extent of his small-screen r�sum�, Flames right wing Jarome Iginla can now add a thespian credit. Last month Iginla, 24, taped an episode of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's crime drama Tom Stone. Of his cameo, in which he sparred in a gym with one of the program's regulars, Iginla deadpans, "No lines—and it was still really hard."
Acting might not be his bag, but Iginla's season is the stuff of made-for-TV movies. After scoring both goals in Calgary's 2-2 tie with the Avalanche last Saturday night he led the NHL in goals (22) and points (39). He made steady progress in each of his five previous NHL seasons, but Iginla has taken a quantum leap, and no less an authority than Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes' managing partner and executive director of the Canadian Olympic team, recently declared that Iginla might be the best forward in the league.
"When I came up, it seemed like things on the ice were happening so fast," Iginla says. "I used to rush my shot. Now I'm realizing that there's a split second more to do things. I'm getting clear of the defenseman and not getting my shot blocked, or getting in closer to the net and getting off a quality shot."
Though his game revolves around muscle—the 6'1", 200-pound power forward wins battles along the boards and stakes out a position near the net—Iginla's off-ice regimen in the past two years has emphasized quickness. "I'm trying to train more like a track athlete," he says. "Forty-meter sprints on a running track, powerlifting instead of strength lifting. Our strength trainer, Rich Hesketh, is an ex-decathlete, and he reminds me that the faster you get off the ice, the faster you get on the ice."
Teamed on the Flames' No. 1 line with center Craig Conroy and left wing Dean McAmmond, Iginla had scored at least one point in 19 of Calgary's 26 games, with the surprising Flames going 11-2-5-1 in those 19 (13-6-5-2 overall). That line had accounted for 38 of Calgary's 73 goals. After flying under the radar during the first quarter of the season, Iginla and his linemates are a marked bunch. "To be a top unit, they've got to face the opposition's top defensive lines night in and night out and still find ways to succeed," says coach Greg Gilbert. "That's the challenge. The matchups have been tougher for them lately, but getting past that is part of the learning curve."
Iginla, who grew up in Edmonton as the son of a Nigerian-born father and an American mother, is in the final year of a three-year, $5 million contract and is eligible for salary arbitration next summer. He says he wants to stay with cash-strapped Calgary, where he's played his entire NHL career. Why not? He may be a television small-timer, but with the Flames, he has top billing.
Detroit's Backup Goaltender
Playing Behind Best Is Worst
Through Sunday, Manny Legace had a 7-0-0 record this season, a 19-game unbeaten streak and a nearly permanent groove the size of his behind on the Red Wings' bench. Legace has the misfortune of backing up six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek, and because of that his job is synonymous with superfluous.
"I've never been in a role like this before," says the 28-year-old Legace, who was 24-5-5 as Chris Osgood's backup last season in Detroit. "I'll look at the schedule and see we have a game, then a couple days off, a game, then another couple days off, and know I'm not even going to be considered to play. Those are the hard weeks. I had a 38-save shutout [on Nov. 21 against the Blue Jackets], and then I didn't play for three games."