BOSTON -- There are only 2,372 names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Each one is deserving of its place on hockey's holy chalice. Unfortunately, there are other players who are more than worthy to have their name etched in silver but fell short for one reason or another.
If there's one current NHLer who should have his name on the Cup, it's Jarome Iginla.
Sure, the Cup has eluded other elite veterans around the league, but no one deserves it more than Iginla. The current Boston Bruins forward has accomplished just about everything else in his career, reached lofty milestones and assumed a role as an ambassador for the game.
As a longtime member and captain of the Calgary Flames, Iginla and his teammates came agonizingly close to a Cup championship in 2004 but lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the finals. In his first season in Boston, Iginla has a real chance to finally win a championship, and his teammates are motivated to help him accomplish that goal.
"I'm not the only guy in the NHL who's played awhile and hasn't won," he said. "I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to be part of the playoffs again. It's a new start and it's always exciting because anything is possible and it could be this year. This is as good of a chance as I believe I've had, and it's a great group of guys."
Iginla is a close friend of former Bruin and three-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Recchi. In fact, the two are co-owners of their junior hockey team, the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, Recchi decided to retire on top. After Iginla signed with the Bruins as a free agent last summer, he spoke with Recchi about what it's like to win in Boston.
Unlike Recchi, even if the Bruins win it all this season, Iginla hopes to stay in Boston and continue playing.
"I'd love to win with this group. I hope that we win this year and [I will] be a part of it, but I still want to play," he said. "I still want to play next year, regardless, but I'd love to win this year."
No one should blame Iginla for choosing the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Bruins last season. At the time of the trade deadline, Pittsburgh was the best team in the NHL and Iginla wanted to win a Cup. He deserves to win a Cup. Unfortunately for him and the Penguins, the Bruins used his snub as motivation and completely dominated Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals with a four-game sweep.
This time around, the Bruins are motivated to win the Cup with Iginla.
Bruins veteran Milan Lucic grew up with a poster of Iginla on his wall. Now that they're teammates and linemates, there's a respect around the Bruins locker room to win it for the future Hall of Famer.
"The type of guy he's been and what he's been able to bring to this hockey club -- his experience, his production, his battle and his leadership -- is someone you want to go into this type of situation with," Lucic said. "He's a great teammate. He's a guy you want to go into the playoffs with because you know that he's got your back. You want to do everything in your power to help him and do whatever you can to take him to somewhere where he hasn't been before. It's going to have to be a combined effort. Instead of using the word 'help,' we have to do it with him. It's going to take everyone."
Not only is Iginla one of the most respected players in the NHL, he's also one of the most humble. Listening to him speak about the Bruins and their first-round opponent, the Detroit Red Wings, it's all about the team concept and not any individual accomplishment.
"We want to win it as a group in here," Iginla said. "The guys who won it before are very hungry and the guys who were there last year. It's been fun to watch coming in as a new guy this year just how hungry the group is and how motivated and determined. You saw that throughout the season, and now with the playoffs, we want to keep going. It's fun. I want to win. Everybody wants to win."
As agonizing as it was to see Ray Bourque leave Boston to win a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, he deserved it. The same can be said for Iginla. Pittsburgh couldn't accomplish it last season, but the Bruins have a good chance this season to do it with Iginla.
"We all remember Ray Bourque here, and when he went to Colorado, they really wanted to win it," Bruins coach Claude Julien explained. "But, you know, in order to do that for [Iginla], you really got to focus on your game. Focus on what you need to do. At the end, you hope that's what it takes to get him a Cup, but I don't want our team just to focus on Iggy because I don't think our focus is going to be the right place.
"Let's focus on what we need to do here to get the goal that we want because we'd like to get it for Iggy, but we'd like to get it for our fans as well, and the rest of the team. So it's a little bit more than that, but he's certainly one of those people that I think everybody's going to be cheering for."
After the Bruins finished practice Thursday at TD Garden, Iginla stood at his locker and talked about his history with Lord Stanley.
If he's one of those players who never has his name etched into the Cup, he won't look back on his career as a failure.
"I try not to look at it that way," Iginla said. "I've been extremely blessed to play as long as I have in the NHL. I have great memories, and I'm having a great time now."
In the 2004 Cup finals, Iginla and the Flames lost Game 7 to the Lightning 2-1 as Tampa Bay hoisted the Cup.
"I don't like to think back to the seventh game. I mean, that was probably tough. That was tough," Iginla said. "It was hard afterwards hearing the other team celebrate when you're that close and you want to be out there. It was an amazing ride all the way up until then. The whole experience was positive, but the ending was tough, absolutely."
After that Cup loss, the Flames lost in the first round four consecutive seasons. The organization eventually asked Iginla to waive his no-movement clause in part to finally give him a chance to win a Stanley Cup. It eluded him again last season with the Penguins, but he has a legitimate chance this season with the Bruins.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him play because he's excited heading into this one," Lucic said.