Thursday, January 31, 2008

Calgary Flames' captain comes full circle

Jarome Iginla has come full circle. Along with Mark Recchi, Darryl Sydor, and Shane Doan, he became a co-owner of the Western Hockey League Kamloops Blazers in October 2007. All four players are ex-Blazers, and Iginla had won two Memorial Cups with the team.

Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi, also a part-owner, handles all the day-to-day operations. Since the new ownership took over, Head Coach Dean Clark was replaced with Greg Hawgood. When asked if Jarome had a stake in the conclusion to fire the coach, he kept in touch via emails. “Tom has been watching the situation a lot closer than we’re able to. All of us do keep in contact.”

Certainly, Iginla’s schedule doesn’t allow him to be a hands-on owner. “In the off-season, there is more chance to be involved. There are certain things we talk to Tom about.” Some of those issues were in place when the four NHL players were there: the tradition, culture, discipline, school.

Iginla describes how the ownership opportunity came about. “The first time around, I knew they were making the bid, and I was hoping they would get it. I like the group, and I thought it would be a good direction change to get things flowing back on track. I was kind of busy at the time and had some different focuses. My son was being born. I had another opportunity. And I’m 30; you realized things go fast. We talked more about what would be involved as far as commitments and stuff. I was happy they gave me an opportunity to get involved with them.”

The group approached Iginla. It helped that he had known them for years – playing with and against them. Part of the attraction was to help get a storied franchise back on track.

“The people that were there did a good job. There were a lot of different stories about a lot of unfortunate things that happened over the last 10 years that took some of the focus away from the young guys, development, some tough situations. I think there are some things that we do share – all of us played in similar times.”

Iginla adds, “You want to win, but it’s not just about winning. There’s a huge responsibility in junior when you take the young guys at that age from 16 to 20, an impressionable time. I’m thankful that I had a lot of direction. To be honest, some of those days, I don’t know if I would have gotten off the bus to go to school. I wouldn’t have graduated. They definitely pushed me, and there were some tough times. You move on and realize a lot of it was very helpful and made it a lot easier for that transition. In Kamloops, they really treated us like young professionals.”

As to whether he has solicited advice from a couple other NHL owners: Scott and Rob Niedermayer, who own the Kootenay Ice, “Not lately. At times, I have. I played with Rob Niedermayer. He was always very positive about it. He really liked the role they have in Kootenay.”

The obvious question is whether being a junior team owner will impact his thoughts about the business of the NHL. “It’s still pretty early. I guess now with the coach being let go, it’s a more personal thing. You realize people have tough decisions to make. On our side, when we see players get traded away, we see families. You see coaches over the years have gotten fired. It’s always tough. We all want to win on the ice and do well. And when that’s not the case, you feel like you let things down, but also on the personal side, where you realize it’s pretty tough days for a little bit for family.”


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