Summer Reading: Iginla’s Retirement and Player/Fan Loyalty Relations

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With the announcement of Jarome Iginla retiring in Calgary, it allows Flames fans to truly celebrate the man who pretty much was the face of the franchise (and some could argue the face of the NHL at the time) throughout the 2000s. He was the player and leader everyone wanted on the ice, as well as an ambassador and community leader off the ice. Having lived in Calgary during that time, Iginla was The Man for the team and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone to say a bad word about him in the area.

At the time that Jarome Iginla was traded away….the fans were ready. Not because they wanted to lose their franchise player, not because they wanted to rebuild– but they wanted what was best for a guy who gave his all and more for that team. He had a no-movement clause that he didn’t have to lift, but with the rebuild under Jay Feaster not going as planned, they moved him to help the rebuild and to help Iginla get a better shot at a Stanley Cup.

Iginla didn’t get his Cup with the Pens or other teams he went to, the prospects back from the Penguins in that 2013 trade didn’t help at any point in the rebuild for the Flames, and we’re all none-the-wiser to this whole deal working out for either side.

But in the end, there wasn’t a big uproar from Flames fans of Iginla wanting to move on and win. They were resigned to the fact that the Flames weren’t going to be the best place for Iginla to get a Cup win, and they didn’t see like it was a big slap in the face for their top guy to want out.

While you could link this to some of the happenings in the John Tavares situation with Islanders fans– you could almost say that the Iginla situation was worse because it was the middle of the season, he had the chance to stay with his no-movement; but he wanted to go elsewhere and fans loved him enough as a player and a man to let him go because they didn’t need to be owed anything else. Whereas the reaction of some Islanders fans makes it seems like a free agent picking their spot is the most traitorous thing to happen in the sports landscape.

Granted, you could say that a small few idiots ruin the other Islanders fans who have been a bit more respectable in the situation, but fan is short for fanatical; thus leading to the crazies leading the asylum.

Is there such a thing as loyalty anymore though?? Sure, a long-term contract to a team could be a kind of loyalty, but is there someone out there like a Jarome Iginla who can punch his own ticket as he sees fit?? Is there someone out there who is given the blessing of the fan base (like they needed it) to move along and not get ridiculed for it??

I’m sure there’s people who would be given a pass if they haven’t won a Cup despite being stellar with their individual numbers– like a Steven Stamkos or PK Subban– if they haven’t won it yet. But by and large, there’s not a lot of people who would get a big pass after years with one team if they haven’t won a title with the team they’ve been at for so long. Fans feel like they’re owed something– which could be partially true in their own minds, but isn’t the reality of the situation.

Players don’t owe fans anything in loyalty because most the times fans will rip on the player if they have a couple of down years– like when many Caps pundits and fans wondered if it would be better to trade Alex Ovechkin away. Loyalty is only as good as the last season’s results and the attitude of the fan base when it comes to the reality of their own team and the franchise player who may deserve more. They don’t owe fans the prime of their career for some arbitrary loyalty clause because they stuck it out so long with a middling team, they shouldn’t want to leave now– especially with a no movement clause.

Flames fans realized that with Iginla and though it didn’t work out– they knew what his goals were and they knew their team didn’t have what they could give him as far as results. That should be taken into account the next time a franchise player gets dealt or signs elsewhere– take a step back and look at the reality. If you feel wronged– that fine, but that’s the business of sports.

Doan, Iginla, and Veteran Value

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There is value in veteran players. That goes without saying, However, when you look at what that veteran brings, you have to really think about what they are going after. Are they in it for the betterment of the team or are they doing it to finally fulfill a personal goal?? It’s a fine line and really in the eye of the beholder or what a fan or management deem as a solid reason to bring those kind of players on-board.

Where I’m coming from stems from what the NHL dot com put out this week in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla still wanting to play, but contemplating retirement knowing their pickings could be slim. Now, these are two players who have contributed a lot in their journeys, especially Doan– who had stuck with the Winnipeg 1.0/Phoenix/Arizona franchise through thick and thin before getting the Kirk Van Houten treatment (and maybe rightfully so). For Iginla, he brought a lot to the table in Calgary, being the heart-and-soul for the Flames franchise when that team was in the dumps. Iginla brought life to the Flames team, culminating in the unforgettable 2004 Stanley Cup playoff run.

Yet, in their advanced age– both at 40– they both want to finally win the Stanley Cup. It’s a noble pursuit that the other 600 players in the NHL have, as well. Yet, it seems the other players know that there is a means to an end. If they are able to play their part in the team scheme, they’d be able to get there as a team. Most team’s managements know that you need to have people in it for the long haul to keep the window open for multiple years.

This is where the disconnect is when it comes to Iginla and Doan. While they may bring leadership, they’re good for maybe one season– if that– before they are moving on as they hear their Cup clock ticking towards the end of their careers. Iginla has at least chased the Cup and had his best chances in Pittsburgh and Boston a few seasons ago. Iginla’s time in Colorado was a stall and wasted some good years of his career. For Doan, he had chances to get out– but for one reason or another; he decided to do the noble thing and stay with the Coyotes…which really got him far with the whole loyalty thing this summer, huh??

Management can’t shake up the chemistry for a one-and-done kind of veteran. Someone like Patrick Marleau signing a three-year deal with Toronto is the kind of deal that helps for the three-year term and gives a very young team trying to find their identity. In a case like Doan and Iginla, they want to go to a place that has an identity, has the chemistry, and they almost want to ride on the coattails of the hard-work that team has created just to get something they feel would complete their NHL resume.

For the short-term, they are not an answer. They will not get the contracts they want and if they want to return to the NHL, they’ll have to take a lesser deal with a lesser team and then hope they perform enough to be a deadline pick-up and maybe get on the bandwagon for a Cup run at the end of the year. The question is whether or not they’re willing to take the lesser deal with the lesser team to maybe….MAYBE…get a sniff at the Cup. At this point in time, I doubt we will have an arena tour for their last ride, but they did leave a lasting impression on a lot of people throughout their career if it is the end.