Like most kids growing up in Edmonton, Jarome Iginla admired Oilers legends Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. As a young Black hockey player, he paid particular attention when he saw someone in the NHL who looked like him in Grant Fuhr.
Iginla idolized Fuhr, cherishing their pictures taken together over the years, and soon will join him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The longtime Calgary Flames captain headlined the hall's six-person 2020 class Wednesday, making it in his first year of eligibility.
Iginla will be the fourth Black player inducted after Fuhr, women’s hockey pioneer Angela James and Willie O’Ree. Iginla and Fuhr are the only Black NHL players enshrined for their on-ice accomplishments, while O’Ree was chosen in the builder category in 2018 for breaking the league’s color barrier 60 years earlier.
“I didn’t view myself in minor hockey as a Black hockey player but I was also aware that I was,” Iginla said. "It really was special to me to see the Black players that were in the NHL — to see Grant Fuhr starring, to be able to say to other people: ‘Look at Grant Fuhr. He’s an All-Star.’ And to see Claude Vilgrain and Tony McKegney and to have answers for the other kids. It was very, very important for me following my dreams."
Iginla was the first Black player to lead the NHL in goals and points and was the first Black male athlete in any sport to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. A first-generation Canadian whose father is Nigerian and mother is American, Iginla owns one of the biggest assists in Canada's history of international hockey. He passed the puck to Sidney Crosby for the “golden goal” at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
“The pressure in those games, in the do-or-die games especially, it’s pretty awesome," Iginla said. “You’re playing for your teammates. It’s for your country. You feel like so many people are watching. You’re trying to carry on the tradition."
Iginla was joined in the 2020 class by winger Marian Hossa, defensemen Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson, Canadian women's goaltender Kim St. Pierre and longtime general manager Ken Holland.
In addition to two Olympic gold medals in three appearances, Iginla won the Maurice “Rocket" Richard Trophy twice as the NHL's top goal-scorer and in 2002 won the Art Ross Trophy for the most points and Ted Lindsay Award as MVP voted by fellow players. He also won the Canadian junior Memorial Cup twice and world juniors, world championship and World Cup of Hockey once each.