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Jarome Iginla hangs up skates after 20 years in NHL

AP, Reuters

Jarome Iginla closed his 20-year NHL career in the city where he was the face of the franchise.

The 41-year-old winger made his retirement official on Monday in Calgary, where he spent 16 seasons with the Flames.

Iginla entertained a packed news conference at Scotiabank Saddledome with humorous stories about his career and teammates.

He’s the Flames all-time leader in goals with 525. The captain for his last decade in Calgary also scored the most points and played the most games.

While a Stanley Cup eluded the likely Hall of Famer during his career, he was a dominant power forward in the NHL.

He assisted on one of the most famous goals in Canadian hockey history.

Iginla set up Sidney Crosby for the overtime winner in the final of the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver in 2010.

In all, Iginla played 20 seasons in the NHL, registering 625 goals, 675 assists, 1,300 points and 1,040 penalty minutes in 1,554 games.

“In a sense, I grew up there,” Iginla told the Flames’ website in an interview published last week. “I started playing for the Flames at 19, but even in minor hockey I remember traveling to Calgary for tournaments, from St. Albert, and I imagined playing in the Saddledome.

“It’s been a fun adventure for my family and I. Some great cities, great people. To be back in Alberta, though, will feel like home.”

Iginla did not play in the NHL last season after appearing in a combined 80 games with the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17.

He played in Calgary from 1996 to 2013 and made six All-Star appearances. He was the NHL’s leading goal-scorer in 2001-02 and 2003-04, and he remains the Calgary franchise leader in games played, goals, points, even-strength goals (351), power-play goals (161) and game-winning goals (83).

Iginla was the 11th overall pick in the 1995 draft, selected by Dallas and traded to Calgary, and made his NHL debut in the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs. He was runner-up for the Calder Trophy as top rookie in 1997.

Iginla never won a Stanley Cup, coming closest when the Flames lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 in the 2004 finals.

“For sure, it took me a while to just let it go, losing,” he said. “From seven years of missing the playoffs to almost winning it. And it does still sting a little bit. I’ve always dreamt of being on a Stanley Cup-winning team. That always stayed with me. I know now that dream isn’t coming true.

“If you said when I started that I was going to play 20 years, experience what I have, I’d have taken it in a heartbeat. I did the best I could, played as hard as I could. And all my dreams came true, more than I ever could’ve imagined, except that one dream.”