To the Flames, it is known simply as the Shift. It lasted precisely one overtime minute—team officials timed it the next morning—but in the retelling after Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, it was said to have been 90 seconds or a Bunyanesque two minutes, harmless exaggerations that are the stuff of legends and speak to Calgary right wing Jarome Iginla's rightful place as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's NHL Player of the Year.
During the Shift, Iginla lost his helmet in a collision, nearly created a goal in the Lightning end with a backhand pass, backchecked like a man whirring at 78 rpm in a 33 1/3 universe and then hurtled back down the ice for an industrial-strength slap shot that goalie Nikolai Khabibulin could not control. The puck caromed to Flames forward Oleg Saprykin, who rammed in the winner at 14:40 of overtime in the last game that underdog Calgary would win from Tampa Bay.
Craig Conroy, Iginla's center, called it the "greatest shift I've ever seen." He then added, "Seriously, how can someone be out there two minutes and still have that kind of juice? Most guys run out of energy, and this guy was building energy."
The Lightning's estimable right wing Martin St. Louis, the runner-up for SI's honor, became the eighth NHL player to complete the single-season hat trick of winning the Stanley Cup, the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer, but his copious skills were aided by the superb Tampa Bay centers, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier. As Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said last week, "Iginla didn't have much help, did he?"
June 20, 2004
Indeed. After starting the season with only four goals through Dec. 1, the 6'1" 208-pound Iginla broke loose and wound up tied for the NHL lead with 41. He did it while playing alongside a center who had an eight-goal season (Conroy) and manning the half boards on a power play that often looked as if it had been drawn up on a cocktail napkin. Iginla then led playoff goal scorers with 13, carrying the Flames and Canada's hopes for a Cup—the weight light on his broad back until the Shift seemed to leave him utterly spent.
Though Iginla, who'll turn 27 on July 1, fell just short of the Stanley Cup, he nonetheless added to his growing status as the NHL's poster child. His community involvement, his humility and his sweet nature off the ice (in contrast to his bug-eyed mean streak on it) have endeared him to his city. After Game 3 of the finals he stopped outside the Saddledome and signed at least 200 autographs. As they say in Calgary, "That's Iggy."