Iginla recalls fondest Olympic memories at Hall of Fame ring ceremony


TORONTO — Jarome Iginla still waffles between the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as his favorite Olympic hockey memory.

Iginla was reliving those memories Friday after receiving his induction ring in a ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Doug Wilson will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Players category and Ken Holland in the Builders category on Monday.

In a career full of memories, the Olympic accomplishments are among the fondest for Iginla.

Canada won the gold medal in each tournament. He scored four points (three goals, one assist) in six games in 2002 and scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games in 2010.

“The way [it went in] 2010, the way the country was [into] it, it felt like they were watching and [there was] so much pressure,” Iginla said Friday after receiving his Hockey Hall of Fame ring. “I was on the bench, literally was nervous watching … then, ‘Oh, I’m up,’ and then you just go as hard as you can and go, go, go, and that’s almost your break of nerves. It’s all those cool emotions.”

Iginla said he cherishes the dream finish for Canada in 2010, winning the gold medal game 3-2 against the United States, and only partly because he assisted on the iconic overtime goal by Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Obviously Crosby took it and made a quick shot,” Iginla said. “It wasn’t that great a pass or anything, but it was the goal. But the way it ended, there are certain moments in my career where it’s what you envision when you’re younger, when you’re dreaming what it might be like and that was one of those moments where it ends the right way and it ends with so much suspense in Canada, on home soil. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

The 44-year-old from Edmonton scored 1,300 points (625 goals, 675 assists) in 1,554 NHL games during 20 seasons with the Calgary Flames, Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.

He said one of the things that helped him carve out that career was the leadership skills he experienced as a young player on a veteran-laden Canada roster at the 2002 Olympics. Canada was looking to erase a 50-year run without winning Olympic gold.

At 24, he was in his sixth NHL season and playing in his first Olympics with some of his hockey heroes.

“Salt Lake was so special because it was 50 years and it was such a tough start,” Iginla said, noting Canada’s 5-2 loss to Sweden in the first game. “Honestly, I was playing with guys that I had looked up to for so long. I was a fan, but I was also playing as a teammate.”

For the first game, Iginla said he remembered one of Canada’s top lines was Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya and Joe Sakic. But the day after the loss to Sweden, the lines were changed and Iginla saw his name on the board in the dressing room with Simon Gagne and Sakic, who at 32 was one of the veterans on the roster.

“I’m thinking right away, this is great,” Iginla said. “The first day I was with [Brendan] Shanahan and [Steve] Yzerman and now I’m with Sakic. It’s awesome. But then I’m thinking, ‘It’s not really the same for him, with Lemieux and Kariya and now with the two youngest guys.’

“So he comes over right after the meeting and I remember it, and he said, ‘I’m excited to play with you two young bucks. We’re going to be flying. It’s going to be great.’ So I’m wondering if he’s not happy but he just disarmed it, made us feel more confident because you want to play with somebody that wants to play with you. It makes you feel better. You’re not trying to live up to anything, so I got to see that, and he went on to have such a great tournament.”

Iginla and Sakic each had two goals and Sakic had four points in Canada’s 5-2 victory against the United States in the gold medal game. Sakic scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in six tournament games.

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