TORONTO — Jarome Iginla got a picture taken with Grant Fuhr when he was kid growing up in Edmonton.
They posed for another when the former Oilers goalie played his final season as Iginla’s teammate with the Calgary Flames.
The two Black players will soon have some thing else in common — a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Iginla headlined the class of 2020 announced Wednesday in his first year of eligibility, and will join Fuhr, Canadian women’s national team member Angela James and Willie O’Ree, who went in as a builder, as the fourth Black person to be enshrined.
“It’s an amazing honour,” Iginla said on a conference all after the announcement. ”I didn’t view myself in minor hockey as a Black hockey player, but I was also aware that I was.
“I had a lot of positive, wonderful experiences, but a question I got asked a lot was, ‘What are the chances of making it to the NHL?’ And there aren’t many Black players in the NHL. It was always very important to me. I had faith. As a kid, I wanted to be like Mark Messier and I loved Wayne Gretzky, the same as other kids. But also it really was special to me to see the Black players that were in the NHL — to see Grant Fuhr starring, to be able to say to other people: ‘Look at Grant Fuhr. He’s an all-star.’
“It was very, very important for me following my dreams.”
Three-time Stanley Cup champion Marian Hossa, also in his first year of eligibility, will accompany Iginla into the hall in the players’ category along with a pair of defencemen who waited a long time — Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson — and Canadian women’s national team goalie Kim St-Pierre.
Ken Holland, meanwhile, will be inducted as a builder to round out the six-person class voted in by the 18-member selection committee.
Iginla will soon join Fuhr as one of only two Black players honoured for their on-ice accomplishments in the NHL. James was a trailblazer in the women’s game, while O’Ree was the NHL’s first Black player in 1958, but only played 45 games.
“If there’s other kids, other minorities, other Black kids growing up and seeing that it’s possible … I know it was special to me,” Iginla said. ”Maybe that will be special to other kids in the way that it was to me.
“I didn’t have to experience anything near what (O’Ree) had to do and (I’m) very thankful for his courage.”
A former captain and franchise icon with the Flames, Iginla registered 525 goals and 1,095 points in 1,219 games from 1996 through 2013 with Calgary before stops in Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado and Los Angeles. He finished his career with 1,300 points in 1,554 regular-season contests to go along with 37 goals and 31 assists in 81 playoff outings.
As usual, Hall chairman Lanny McDonald informed Iginla and the rest of the 2020 class by phone.
The only problem was Iginla, who had planned to answer with family by his side, got the timing wrong. He wound missing McDonald’s first attempt and answered the second alone in his car.
“Something I’ll never forget,” Iginla said. “It makes you reflect so much.”
While he didn’t enjoy a ton of team success in the NHL, Iginla won two Olympic gold medals — he was the first Black athlete to win gold in any sport at the Winter Games — and played a key role in one of the most iconic moments in Canadian hockey history, assisting on Sidney Crosby’s 2010 golden goal against the United States in Vancouver.
“The pressure in those games, in the do-or-die games especially, it’s pretty awesome,” said Iginla, who also topped the Olympic podium in 2002 and also played for his country in 2006. ”You get on the bench and you’re a fan.”
A dominant power forward, he put up terrific numbers despite playing a large portion of his career during the so-called “dead puck era” when defensive play reigned before the NHL instituted a number of rule changes following the 2004-05 lockout.
Iginla won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer in 2001-02, and grabbed the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with the most goals that season and again in 2003-04.
Selected 11th overall at the 1995 NHL draft by Dallas before being dealt to the Flames as part of the Joe Nieuwendyk trade, Iginla willed Calgary to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final before falling Tampa Bay, but never again got close to hockey’s ultimate prize.
Hossa will become the second NHL player enshrined despite still being on an NHL payroll, following Chris Pronger in 2015.
The Slovak winger, who hasn’t suited up for a game since 2017 and isn’t expected to resume his career because of a serious skin condition, wound up with 525 goals and 1,134 points in 1,309 regular season games with Ottawa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.
Taken by Ottawa with the 12th pick in 1997, Hossa added 52 goals and 149 points in 205 playoff outings, winning the Cup with Chicago in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Another dominant power forward, he lost in the 2008 final with Pittsburgh and again in 2009 with Detroit before finally getting his hands on the Cup in 2010.
“There was so much pressure,” Hossa said. ”I’ve still got a picture in my office when I first touched the Stanley Cup.”
Hossa was placed on long-term injured reserve by Chicago in October 2017 and subsequently traded to Arizona in a salary-cap move. Hossa will remain on Arizona’s books through the end of the 2020-21 season.
“A phone call I’ll never forget the rest of my life,” Hossa said of getting the news. ”It was an amazing moment.”
The hall’s selection committee met for the first time via an online forum because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members residing in the Toronto area gathered together, but the rest joined using a video link to debate and vote on this year’s candidates. The 2020 induction ceremony is scheduled for November in Toronto, but that could be pushed back.
Drafted by Edmonton 21st overall in 1979, Lowe won five Cups in his 13 seasons in the Alberta capital. The native of Lachute, Que., then grabbed another title with the New York Rangers in 1994.
Set to become the eighth woman — and first female goaltender — inducted into the hall, St-Pierre played boys’ hockey until she was 18 before joining the women’s team at McGill University. The Chateauguay, Que., product would represent Canada on the international stage, helping her country capture three Olympic golds and five world championships.
“What an honour,” St-Pierre said. “It’s a huge day.”
The seventh overall selection in 1977, Wilson played 14 seasons with Chicago, winning the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman in 1982. Traded to San Jose in 1991, the Ottawa native played his final two seasons on the West Coast before later moving to the team’s front office, where he’s served as GM since 2003. In 1,024 NHL regular season games, Wilson recorded 237 goals and 827 points.
Following his playing career, Holland served as a scout with Detroit before moving up to assistant GM. Named the club’s GM in 1997, he spent 22 seasons in the post and won three Cups.
“This is an incredible day,” said Holland, who was hired as Edmonton’s GM last May. ”I’m so honoured and humbled.
“This incredible class that I’m going into the Hall of Fame with, makes it an even more special day.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2020.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press