Friday, February 8, 2002
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
Iggy repays years of sacrifice
Born on Canada Day 24 years ago, it should come as no surprise some of Jarome Iginla's most cherished moments involve the singing of our national anthem.
As a hotshot junior who'd won two Canadian championships with the Kamloops Blazers, he stood proudly at attention singing O Canada in 1996 when he struck gold at the world juniors.
One year later, he did the same in Vienna when his Canadian squad triumphed at the world championships.
And while the Calgary Flames forward has long revelled in the thrill of starting every NHL game with Canada's beloved song, it was a rendition sung by his mom at the Saddledome last year that truly tugged at his heart.
An opera student at the University of Alberta who was forced to cut her schooling short when she became pregnant with Jarome, Susan Schuhard's anthem opportunity allowed her to play out the first of two lifelong dreams made possible by her son.
Fitting, considering she worked so hard to help Jarome follow his passion for the game, sacrificing what little money and time she had as a single mother to provide her only child with everything she could.
And now, as Jarome continues to realize his dreams in arenas across North America and the world, hers are also being fulfilled in the classrooms and auditoriums of the U of A where she is in the second year of a bachelor of education degree. It's an opportunity that comes courtesy of Jarome.
"It's a beautiful story because he is appreciating the people who have helped him along the way, being his family," said Schuhard, whose parents are both retired teachers.
"When he signed with the Flames (in 1996), he asked me if there was anything I wanted to do and I said 'go back to school to become a music or drama teacher.' "
Not only is Jarome paying her tuition, he also supports her financially, ensuring she can concentrate on her studies full time without having to work much more than a couple of hours a week on her small, massage therapy business.
"I knew it was something she wanted to get back into -- it's a passion of hers," said Iginla, who lived with his mom in St. Albert until last summer when he moved down the street with his high school sweetheart, leaving mom with the condo he bought her.
"She's excited about it -- she gets good marks and I think she'll be a great teacher. She sends me her marks and all that stuff and I'm excited to see them. She's doing well and she seems very happy."
Susan's happiness hit an all-time high Dec. 15 when Jarome called from his St. Louis hotel room to tell his mother about a phone call from childhood idol Wayne Gretzky asking him to play for the Olympic team.
"That was really special -- I hadn't felt that special for a while," said Schuhard, who stays in close contact with her son, makes the three-hour drive to his games regularly and receives flowers from him several times a year.
"The tears were real and they stemmed from the fact he called me. He's an adult now but he's still a really good boy.
"There are still things that are special to a mother."
There are things special to a young boy, too, like the sacrifices a mother and a grandfather make along the way.
"My mom didn't want me to miss out on any activities, so she worked a lot," recalls Iginla, whose father, Elvis, was divorced from Susan a year after Jarome was born.
"She was busy but she went to almost all my games. Fortunately, I had my grandpa there to take me to practices or power-skating after school or to make sure my skates were sharp.
"I always had somebody in the stands supporting me, which meant a lot to me."
Now that he's reached a point where Gretzky called him "the best player in the game right now," Jarome strives to return his mom's support every way he can. Inviting his mother, father and grandparents to join him at the Olympics, nothing would mean more than to sing the anthem with his mom and the rest of the country following the gold-medal game on Feb. 24.
"I have a lot of family going down and I'm really excited I can share it with them," said Iginla, who also has four half-siblings through his dad's second marriage.
"My mom and I are very close, always have been. She didn't know if she was able to make it (to Utah) because of her classes but it turns out to be reading week. I'd imagine she'll bring some books down."
Named an NHL all-star for the first time, engaged to his sweetheart over Christmas, leading the NHL in scoring for most of the season and representing his country in the Olympics -- it truly has been a dream year for Jarome Iginla.
Something his mom knows all about.
2002 Games Men's Hockey Coverage