Los Angeles

Jarome Iginla ‘Very Excited' For Next Chapter with L.A. Kings

Speaking ahead of his Los Angeles Kings debut, Jarome Iginla discusses his excitement to join a contender, and the nerves that will follow when he takes the ice on Thursday at Staples Center.

It's just past noon at the Ottawa International Airport and an anxious 39-year-old hockey player is pacing like back-and-forth like a caged tiger. Reflective, but excited for what's ahead. 

His name is Jarome Iginla, a 20-year veteran of the National Hockey League and six-time All-Star. The abrupt nature of the business has him waiting at the airport for a flight to Los Angeles. After three seasons in Colorado, he's been traded to the Kings.

Just over a week ago, Iginla was skating against the Kings at the Pepsi Center in Denver, now, for the third time in his career, one phone call has turned his life upside down, but this time for the better.

"I'm very excited about it," Iginla said of the trade to Los Angeles. "Not until this morning did I hear the Kings were a possible destination. Obviously their track record and success is great. I'm really looking forward to it."

So Iginla exchanges the rocky mountains and snow storms for the pacific ocean and palm trees as he joins forces with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and a familiar face in Kings head coach Darryl Sutter.

"Kopi [Kopitar] reached out to welcome me and I really appreciate that," said Iginla. "It kinda feels like I know them a little bit from playing and competing against them on the ice over the years. I don't know them well, but it feels like I do know them." 

Other than a couple All-Star appearances over the years, Igiinla has not played with many of the Kings current crop of world-class talent. In fact, the Kings newest star, forward Adrian Kempe, wasn't even born when Iginla made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames in 1996. 

Seven years later, Sutter would join Iginla in Calgary as the Flames head coach and general manager for the 2003-2004 season. In his first full year behind the helm, Sutter and "Iggy" led the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It feels like it was both just yesterday and a long time ago," Iginla said of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals with Sutter. "I really enjoyed playing for him in Calgary. He's been very successful. He is firm and he can be tough, but I think that's a good thing. It does make it easier having a relationship with him. It wasn't that long ago I was playing for him. Time flies." 

It certainly does. It seems like just yesterday that Iginla was celebrating his 600th goal of his career against his new teammates at the Pepsi Center. As fans stood giving Iginla a standing ovation, he was mobbed by teammates on the ice. The Kings could only stand and applaud as greatness was in front of them. Now, it will be beside them.

"I remember seeing Doughty say after he won the last Stanley Cup [20140 how hungry he was for another one," Iginla said of joining the Kings All-Star defenseman. "They have a shot to win it again and I'm excited to join them and be a part of it."

At 17-42-3, the Avalanche have the worst record in the NHL and haven't been competitive all season. It's been a difficult season for Iginla as his numbers are well below his career averages, so when the NHL trade deadline got closer, he was hopeful to join a competitor.

Ironically, Iginla received help from a man he competed against for years on the ice in Avalanche vice president and general manager Joe Sakic. 

"I talked to Joe and my agent. Joe was great," Iginla said of his former boss and longtime opponent. "He said he would do whatever he could to help facilitate it."

Sakic likely didn't want to lose one of his top offensive players, especially as a mentor to some of the younger guys on the team, but he knew trading Iginla to a team where he could compete for a Stanley Cup was the best thing to do. 

"We felt it was the right thing to do for him," said Sakic. "It's a respect thing. For him as a person and as a hockey player."

On Thursday, Iginla will make his Los Angeles Kings debut in front of some of the best fans in sports at the Staples Center. He won't be able to wear his customary No. 12 jersey that's followed him around the NHL for 16 seasons, so instead he chose No. 88 in honor of Wayne Gretzky.

"Actually a true story, one of the only jerseys I ever bought was when Gretzky got traded to the Kings," Iginla admitted. "I was a huge Oilers fan growing up, but I bought a Kings jersey and I put on number 88 and I put my name on the back when I was ten years old. I don't know if that number's available, but the kids might like that one." 

Star Wars fans will take pleasure in seeing IGGY-88 on the ice on Thursday night, but for Iginla, it will be calming the nerves and butterflies floating around his stomach. 

"It's a huge adjustment. It's nerve racking for sure," he said of meeting his new teammates. "A lot of unknowns about going into a dressing room as the 'new guy,' It is going to be awkward and a little bit different at first. "

If Iginla can help ignite the Kings offense which has struggled to score this season, there's no doubt he will be welcomed into the locker room with open arms, similar to how veteran Vincent LeCavalier was received after he was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Kings last season. 

"I have lots left in the tank. I still have the desire and I look forward to battling," finished Iginla when asked what he can bring to the team. "I think I can still be effective."

Contact Us