Jarome Iginla bid farewell to the city of Calgary on Thursday with same the class and dignity he displayed on and off the ice with the Flames over 16 NHL seasons.
"I want to thank the fans in Calgary," the now-former Flames captain told reporters at a crowded Ed Whalen Media Lounge at Scotiabank Saddledome.
"I never thought I'd play here so long. It's a great city, a great community and a great place to live. Leaving is tough, but it's a great opportunity to go to Pittsburgh and do some good things there."
After weeks of speculation, the Flames finally parted ways with their star forward on Wednesday night, sending Iginla to Pittsburgh for college forwards Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski and the Penguins' 2013 first-round draft pick.
The 35-year-old was a notable healthy scratch for Calgary's 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. Fans who sensed that they were not going to see Iginla again in a Flames uniform chanted "Iggy! Iggy!" as the game wound down. "It was very hard and kind of weird to watch the game on TV last night," he told reporters.
Iginla joins a stacked Pittsburgh lineup that already includes the game's biggest name in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. And their Cup run has also been solidified with the additions of forward Brenden Morrow and defenceman Douglas Murray.
"I'd love to get my first crack at one Cup," said Iginla. "Pittsburgh has the two best players in the world. It's really hard as a player to pass up the opportunity to play on a team with Sid and Malkin."
Iginla is in the final year of his current deal, which will pay him $7 million, and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Iginla addressed the question of a possible return one day to the Flames - a team that's now officially on the road to rebuilding. "I never rule anything out," he said. "I think the organization is going in the right direction."
A native of Edmonton, Iginla leaves the Flames as their all-time leader in goals (525), points (1,095) and total games (1,219), while placing second in assists (570) after spending all of his 16-plus NHL seasons in southern Alberta.
"I hope to play five more years," he said. (The trade) makes me realize how fast the other 16 years have gone."