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Reflections on the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class

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There are a few things worth celebrating about getting a little older. Perspective, wisdom, more comfort in one's skin — these are common functions of exiting the more angsty and expedient phases of personal development.

There's also first-hand experience and a deeper understanding when reflecting and considering the latest inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Though it's possible I'm one of very few considering that to be an actual plus.

For a hockey writer, though, it's nice to finally truly understand the greatness, the context, and have my own experience to fall back on when players are headed to enshrinement.

Where it was, "sure, I'll take your word on Bernie Federko" previously, it's now "Jarome Iginla helped me fall in love with this sport."

Admittedly, Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson were before my vintage, but every year now — and in this case over the space of 17 months — Hall of Fame weekend means a little bit more. Which is nice.

With that said, here are some reflections on the 2020 class (in 2021).

Iginla met the hockey ideal

Hockey players are often criticized for a lack of individuality, or conforming to a certain standard, but if you had the opportunity to clone Jarome Iginla, you would create all the Jarome Iginlas.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - NOVEMBER 12: A plaque for the Hall's newest inductee Jarome Iginla hangs in the Great Hall at the Hockey Hall Of Fame on November 12, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A plaque for the Hall's newest inductee Jarome Iginla hangs in the Great Hall at the Hockey Hall Of Fame. (Getty)

Iginla was the consummate everything in his 21-season NHL career. As a two-time Rocket Richard winner, it's easiest to quantify his place as one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation. But as talented as he was from a goal-scoring perspective, he was also the ultimate leader, competitor, and teammate.

In other words, he was arguably the perfect hockey player — certainly in his era.

What made Iginla special — and now a Hall of Famer — was laid out bare in the Calgary Flames' 2004 run to the Stanley Cup Final. He averaged a half-goal per game on that run and finished with 22 points and 45 penalty minutes in 26 games.

His fight with Vincent Lecavalier in Game 3 of the NHL's championship series is the standard in which all romanticized fights aimed at inspiring teammates will be measured against until the end of time.

It remains one of the single-most memorable Stanley Cup Final moments for me.

In an alternate universe, where video review was implemented earlier, Iginla willed a team that didn't have enough talent to win to a Stanley Cup championship. Alas, the situation was what it was, and Nikolai Khabibulin was credited with that save on Martin Gelinas.

What made Iginla so endearing wasn't just how badly it seemed he wanted to win, but the determination to do it with the organization he belonged to and captained.

He wore those two C's, both flaming, with an immense amount of pride. It wasn't until Iginla had transitioned out of the dominant phase of his career, and when he understood he couldn't be the dominant force on a winner, did he look elsewhere in an attempt to achieve the one thing that eluded him in his career.

Iginla did achieve significant team success, winning gold medals in four layers of international competition, including two at the Olympics. A prospect that couldn't be denied at one, and the veteran who could be relied on in the most important moment imaginable at the other, Iginla's roles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver will live forever in Canadian Hockey history.

What's more exemplary than that?

No cautionary tale

That deep and unshakable relationship between superstar and team that Iginla had with the Flames is not a characteristic of Marian Hossa's career — partly because he wasn't given that opportunity as part of a blockbuster trade several seasons into his career.

That said, the burning desire to win was just as intense.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - NOVEMBER 12: Marian Hossa takes part in a press opportunity prior to his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame at the Hockey Hall Of Fame on November 12, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Marian Hossa talks to the media prior to his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Getty)

In fact, what is one of the most impressive things when reflecting on Hossa's career was the relentless and even brazen pursuit of a championship — even at the risk of losing the earning potential he created for himself.

After losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings while briefly a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hossa turned down massive contract offers in free agency to join the Red Wings on a one-year deal. As fate would have it, the Red Wings and Penguins returned to the Stanley Cup Final the following year with Pittsburgh winning the rematch without Hossa.

On the wrong end each time in a championship split, Hossa's situation would be considered a cautionary tale if he didn't sign the perfect contract that offseason. It was tremendous foresight this time as Hossa committed long term to the upstart Chicago Blackhawks.

Satiating that desire to win, Hossa captured three Stanley Cups in the next six seasons in Chicago as an indispensable part of the team's dynastic run in the early 2010s.

Hossa's decisions haven't been often replicated, unfortunately. We rarely see players make decisions that don't have their best financial interests in mind.

Let that be part of the legacy, guys!

Another dominant Quebec-born goaltender

Roy, Brodeur, St-Pierre.

As some inside Hockey Canada ponder the limited options in goal for Canada with the Olympics looming (at least on the men's side), Kim St-Pierre provided another reminder of just how important Quebec-born netminders have been to the nation's international dominance.

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 25:  Goalie Canada's Kim St-Pierre carries the Canadian flag.
Canada beat USA 2-0 for the gold medal.
The Women's hockey gold medal game was held today between Canada and the USA at the Canada Hockey Place.        (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Kim St-Pierre is a Canadian hockey legend. (Getty)

A three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion, St. Pierre became the first-ever female netminder enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame and the 39th in history as part of the 2020 class.

St-Pierre's shining moment came in 2002 as part of the Canadian Olympic team and a double-gold showing for Hockey Canada. Her performance in the gold-medal game, and a 3-2 triumph over the United States, kick-started an incredible run for the women's program in particular, which went on to win the next three Olympic finals.

As a player that was several times cut from competitive rosters before surfacing on Team Canada's radar, St-Pierre's story in one of persistence, but also one that reflects the divide between the men's and women's games. Under no circumstances should a player of St-Pierre's talent been forced with the decision to continue her hockey career. But after fortunately choosing to do so at the University of McGill, St-Pierre finally had the platform to continue proving herself and command the opportunities that would eventually present themselves.

After three gold medals, a handful of world championships and multiple Clarkson Cups, St-Pierre is now a Hockey Hall of Famer as part of the legendary group of goaltenders to lift Canada's national programs out of Quebec.

Up next: Roberto Luongo.

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