BOSTON — There may have been a handful of boos when Jarome Iginla was officially introduced to Bruins fans for the first time prior to Thursday night’s season opener at TD Garden. By and large there were cheers for the veteran, but there may have been a boo or two mixed in.
Within an hour or so, however, those boos turned to deafening cheers as Iginla won the Bruins faithful over just by dropping his gloves. As the fighting debate rages on across hockey, it’s no secret that fisticuffs still hold a special place in the Black and Gold hearts of Bruins fans, and Iginla played to that Thursday night.
The future Hall of Famer didn’t get on the scoresheet in his Bruins debut, but he certainly made his presence felt physically. He delivered two hits on one of his first shifts of the game, and then endeared himself to the fans by dropping the gloves and picking up his first fight as a Bruin in the second period.
Iginla took exception to what appeared to be a clean hit from Radko Gudas, but the Tampa Bay defenseman was more than willing to oblige. The two tough guys end up taking a lengthy spin in what looked to be a pretty even fight. When the dust finally settled, Bruins fans roared with delight. That’s all it took for Iginla — who was a marked man in Boston just a few months after spurning the B’s in favor of the Penguins — to become a fan favorite.
It might have actually been a good idea for Iginla to go looking for a fight with that sort of thing in mind, but he says it was totally organic and it was just hockey.
“It wasn’t planned — I wasn’t planning on getting run over there, either,” a smiling Iginla said.
Regardless, Iginla’s willingness to drop the gloves and protect himself is something that Bruins fans will always eat up, even given someone like Iginla’s past. He’s one of them now, which is something that excites him as much as it excites the fans.
“I haven’t played a ton of games here, but over the years I’ve come in here and it’s been a tough place to play especially over the last five years or whatever,” he said. “It’s always a good crowd. They’re into it, they’re yelling. It’s tough hockey in here. It’s nice to be on the other side and feed off of that and be in this dressing room and feed off of that, too.”
Iginla’s game, of course, is far more than just fighting. While he didn’t find the back of the net, he did have a couple of solid chances, and his head coach was pleased with the effort.
“It was his first game, so I thought he did a good job of doing what he wanted to do for our team,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “I thought he had a good opportunity late in the third that could have capitalized on in the slot. He had scoring chances, he was physical, he finished his checks, he obviously thought. He did what he had to do.”
Bruins fans will expect more out of Iginla, especially when it comes to production, but playing like he did Thursday night in his debut certainly won’t hurt, either.
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