The allure of playing with Sidney Crosby was too tempting for Jarome Iginla to pass up.
The former Calgary Flames captain joined Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean Saturday for an exclusive interview on Inside Hockey to talk about what lured him into joining the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Iginla, who was traded to the Penguins on Wednesday night in exchange for college forwards Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski, along with Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2013, revealed Crosby had factored in him deciding to join Pittsburgh, adding he couldn’t say no to playing with two superstars.
"There’s some truth to that," Iginla said, when MacLean asked if Crosby helped sway his decision. "I did hear that Sid — I didn’t talk to him before — but he’d put in a good word and I really enjoyed playing with him at the Olympics and getting the chance to meet him.
"He and [Evgeni Malkin] are the two best players in the world and it was tough. First of all, just moving and leaving Calgary was not an easy decision, but I think it was time for everyone, and good for the organization, too."
Iginla, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, was cautious with his comments but the issue of tampering was raised by the Hotstove Tonight panel during its Saturday night segment.
The Boston Bruins had thought they had a deal in place to land Iginla, but that fell through because of Iginla's wish to play in Pittsburgh.
However, Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman doesn't see any proof that tampering took place.
"There is a thing that gets put up in all the dressing rooms now, and technically players can [be guilty of] tampering," said Friedman. "They're told personal communications to entice a player under contract with any other team to come to your team, that's not allowed. It's sort of put up in any dressing room.
"But I don't look at that and say, there's enough there to say there was tampering. I know people are very sensitive right now but I don't see something there that says the Penguins tampered with Jarome Iginla."
The Edmonton native made his debut with the Penguins on Saturday and registered three shots on goal and was a plus-one in 17:30 of ice time against the Islanders. Pittsburgh also extended its win streak to 15 straight games.
Iginla's debut didn't go so well for Crosby, though, who took a puck to the face and left the game.
He needed oral surgery and coach Dan Bylsma told reporters he wasn't sure if the superstar would miss any time, but the injury was cause for concern as the forward has had a history of concussion problems (he missed the last 41 games of 2011 and the playoffs, and also missed most of the 2012 campaign with concussion symptoms).
But before Iginla was shipped off to Pittsburgh, a strange scenario had played itself out in the hours before the trade became official on Wednesday evening.
Multiple reports had suggested a deal was imminent to ship the 16-year veteran to the Bruins, while another interested party reportedly included the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Iginla said his agent, Don Meehan, had been keeping in contact with Flames general manager Jay Feaster throughout the day. Meehan informed his client several teams had been interested in his services and that a deal was being worked on. Iginla was told he would be sitting out Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Colorado in case a transaction was completed.
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli even revealed on Thursday he thought his squad had a deal in place for the sniper, but in the end Iginla was persuaded to join Pittsburgh.
"I was very flattered when Donny [Meehan] did tell me that the teams that were putting in late bids, and it was very hard," Iginla said. "I have friends in Boston, and it’s a great organization and a great city, and all those teams are top organizations so it was very tough, but in the end getting the chance to play here in Pittsburgh, the way they’re rolling and to play on a team with Sid and Gino as a forward, it’s pretty exciting."
He also said he wanted to make sure Calgary was getting a good deal for the organization.
"It came down to wanting something that was fair, with Calgary, and Donny came and told me that [the teams’] offers were in the same ballpark," he said. "Then I talked to [Flames owner] Murray Edwards, and he was great, and Jay Feaster, and I did say that obviously I would like all the teams but I’d really love to go to Pittsburgh."
His wish was granted, but not before a few logistical hiccups. He missed his connector flight in Chicago after a flight delay Friday night, and his equipment didn’t arrive until just before game time Saturday.
Although the Calgary chapter of Iginla’s career has concluded, he will remember it fondly.
"So it was pretty neat, it’s something that brings me back to my first ever game playing for Calgary and being 19-years-old," he said. "Being out there, you can’t prepare for it."
In a storied career that includes an NHL all-rookie team nomination, three first team all-star appearances, two 'Rocket' Richard trophies, an Art Ross Trophy, and a Lester B. Pearson Award, to go along with two Olympic gold medals, he’ll now prepare to take a run at winning the most coveted trophy in all of hockey — the Stanley Cup.