Happy Father’s Day

By Veronika Janik

This year’s Stanley Cup run could be described as nothing short of a hockey phenomenon, with the Flames, led by the remarkable Jarome Iginla, beating all odds and proving the world wrong.

Now, with the playoffs over and the city filled with cliched "you’re still our heroes" congratulatory remarks, even the hardest working and most determined of the Flames are relieved to receive a break from their beloved sport.

One such player is the Flames’ leading scorer and Captain Jarome Iginla, and with Father’s Day approaching during one of Iginla’s few "slow" months, what better way to spend his time than with the man who brought the legend known as "Iggy"into this world—his father Elvis Iginla.

Elvis, who is a Nigerian native, came to Canada in 1976 at the age of 19, seeking a better quality of life and education. He married a Caucasian- American woman by the name of Susan Schuchard and in 1977, Jarome was born.

Shortly after, Elvis Iginla enrolled at the University of Alberta and attained an honours degree in Psychology. In 1988, he was accepted to law school at the U of A. He completed his education in 1991, but did not begin practicing law until 1998.

Although his marriage with Schuchard ended in divorce just two years after Jarome’s birth, Elvis Iginla remained very close to his son and maintained regular contact with him. He recalls time spent with Jarome as pleasant and invaluable, as they were unable to be together every day.

"Jarome was a very good child," says Iginla.

"He was not demanding, very easy to get along with, easy to teach and he liked to learn."

Iginla saw his son frequently, and over time they developed many of the same interests, which he describes as the reason for their close bond.

"Jarome’s nature is very much like mine. He is a very spiritual guy, and he’s always wanting to know more and to learn, not just about hockey but about God and life."

At age seven, Jarome began playing hockey, and was involved in numerous other sports including baseball, basketball, and volleyball. He went on to star for St.. Albert in the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association before graduating to juniors. He played three seasons with the Western Hockey League before being drafted to the NHL in the first round. Although Iginla saw Jarome’s undeniable love for hockey, he never anticipated that his son would grow to become one of Canada’s hockey prodigies.

"I grew up in a culture where professional sports are not a common thing and I was always discouraged by my mother not to get involved with sports because she was worried I wouldn’t finish university," informs Iginla. "So I always looked at Jarome’s sports as more of a hobby and I never really imagined that he’d be making a living out of it until he got drafted."

"If you’d asked me when he was 13 or 14 what I thought he’d be doing right now I would have said ‘Oh Jarome, he likes to talk, he’ll probably be a lawyer’."

However, being raised in an atmosphere which emphasized proper education did not stop Iginla from supporting his son throughout his entire hockey career. He was aware of Jarome’s drive and integrity and for this reason always maintained a positive attitude toward Jarome’s passion for sports.

"Jarome is a real independent, dedicated guy. He always enjoyed what he did and how do you deprive a child of that?" asks Iginla.

With complete support from both the maternal and paternal sides of the family, Jarome continued to develop his hockey skills while attracting worldwide attention.

The elder Iginla recalls speaking to his mother, and hearing that Jarome was making headlines in various cities throughout Nigeria. This came as a bit of a surprise for Elvis, who has never returned to his homeland.

"It’s nice to hear that the whole country supports him," he says.

He is also very hopeful that his and Jarome’s plans to travel back to Nigeria will become a reality next year, as Jarome’s summer is far too short this year. Instead, Iginla hopes to spend plenty of time catching up with his son, beginning with their plans for Father’s Day. He says that watching Jarome play throughout the season is extremely stressful and both are looking forward to spending some low-key time together.

"For the longest time we’ve had a traditional Father’s Day golf trip where it’s just me and him," remarks Iginla.

"It is very special for me because we get to share one room with two beds and we just talk pretty well all night, in depth about life."

As for the future of his son’s career, Iginla hopes that Jarome remains in Calgary. He describes the Calgary Flames as a first class organization, and states that although he resides in Edmonton, he has been a Flames fan since day one.

"It is my sincere hope and prayer that Jarome finishes his career over in Calgary because I think I will find it very hard to cheer for any other team," declares Iginla, with a small, but proud fatherly grin.

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