Iggy: Players not faster

Avalanche veteran says skaters just as quick 10 years ago

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DENVER — One of the NHL’s oldest players said Saturday those who think the NHL is dramatically younger today than five or 10 years ago are having trouble with their memory.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/11/2015 (2559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DENVER — One of the NHL’s oldest players said Saturday those who think the NHL is dramatically younger today than five or 10 years ago are having trouble with their memory.

Amusing, and Jarome Iginla is mostly right, given charts showing the league’s average age might be creeping downward, but it’s only ever so slightly, if at all, in the last 10 years.

(Compiled data shows the average age in 2009-10 was 27.3. Last season it was 27.8 and it’s fractionally lower this season.).

David Zalubowski / The Associated Press Colorado Avalanche right winger Jarome Iginla says the NHL isn't any faster than it used to be 10 years ago, but it sure is safer.

The Colorado Avalanche right-winger, now 38 and still firing goals, remembers young players having an impact regularly over his productive career that began with the draft in 1995.

“I don’t know about that question,” Iginla said Saturday morning at Pepsi Center, where his Avs were taking on the Winnipeg Jets later in the day. “I think it’s exaggerated. I think there have been young guys making a big impact for a long time.

“Look at when Ovie (Alex Ovechkin) broke in 10 years ago. He was a young guy and dominating. And Sid (Sidney Crosby) and (Evgeni) Malkin. And this has been going on for a long time.

“If you look at teams, there are still a mix and there are still some older guys.”

Iginla suggested many pundits are also misreading how the game is played today versus years of recent past.

“People like to say the game is way faster now, too. I, personally, think it’s consistently quicker, but I don’t think the top end of the game is faster,” he said. “When you look at Paul Kariya and Pavel Bure and Teemu Selanne and Joe Sakic, well, the difference now is that the fourth lines are faster. So they are faster than the old fourth lines.

“I don’t think today’s best guys are any faster than them (Ovechkin, Crosby), it’s just that everybody’s flying now. The pace of the game is just more consistent now. Everyone backchecks. The high end, that doesn’t feel any faster to me. At least not since they took out the red line. It did get quicker then.

“And the lack of hold-ups, since they made that change, the game’s been pretty much the same since then. But we used to hold everyone up. Then it was about slowing everyone down.

“Now it’s all skating.”

Clearly age is a state of mind for Iginla, who played regular-season Game No. 1,415 of his career Saturday night.

It’s his 19th season and he’s 19th all-time in the NHL in goals (596), 37th in points (1,241) and 31st in games played.

Further on the youth question, Iginla volunteered that since he broke into the league with the Calgary Flames in 1996, the game is less vicious physically.

“The game now is more conducive to helping younger guys now,” he said. “The intimidation isn’t nearly what it used to be. All of us are more protected because of suspensions and video review. I can tell you it’s a much cleaner game than it used to be.

“It’s not as vicious and whether you think that’s good or bad, well, that’s your opinion. I don’t know whether it’s better this way or not, but it’s safer. Some of the hits you see now, we call them hits to the head, so many of those wouldn’t even be a penalty back, when, 10 years ago. The intimidation factor for the young guys, I won’t say easier, but it is safer.

“I remember when I was coming into the league, you had Stu Grimson and Bob Probert and Tie Domi yelling at you, different guys like that, they were trying to take your head off and yelling at you and that’s different now.

“And so it’s conducive to just playing your game now, with less holding in the corners. You can just move and not spend all your time trying to get away from guys like Derian Hatcher in the corner.”

Iginla doesn’t give any sense he’s winding down his career.

He says he works as hard as ever in the summers now, conscious that any slip-up in conditioning will be exposed in today’s game.

“I’m still working hard at my conditioning,” Iginla said. “I try to stay hard on it because if you don’t, it’ll affect your quickness.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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