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Jarome Iginla establishes physical presence in Bruins debut

10.03.13 at 11:29 pm ET
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Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla didn’t think it was a particularly dirty hit. He just didn’t like being knocked to the ice by Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas, so he decided to say something. After a quick verbal exchange, the gloves were off and Iginla had his first fight as a Bruin.

“It is always nice [to get the first fight out of the way],” Iginla said. “Between seasons, with the summer off, you always feel a little bit rusty at the start. It’s always nice. Just going off emotion. Nothing planned. Just got run over. That’s part of it.”

Whether it was the best time for Iginla to drop the gloves is highly debatable. He’s a first-line winger, and Gudas is not a first-pairing defenseman. On top of that, the Bruins had the lead at the time. All things considered, the Lightning would take that trade-off every time, especially since they ended up scoring just 1:26 after the fight.

But the fight did serve a purpose for Iginla. It was the centerpiece of his effort to establish himself on a new team. Combined with some of the hits he threw as an aggressive forechecker, the fight let everyone know that, at age 36, the future Hall of Famer is still going to be as physical as he’s always been.

And on a team that takes pride in sticking up for each other, Iginla made it known that he’s perfectly capable of sticking up for himself and fighting his own battles.

“That’s been Bruins hockey for a long time,” Iginla said. “Guys stick up for each other, but you also have to stick up for yourself. You don’t want anyone else rushing in on a good, clean hit. It’s just part of the intensity, part of the emotion.”

While it wasn’t Iginla’s primary motivation for dropping the gloves, the fight also won over the small group of Bruins fans who hadn’t quite forgiven Iginla for spurning the B’s in favor of the Penguins last season. There had even been a few boos when Iginla was introduced before the game.

But after the fight? Standing ovation.

“It felt good to play here and play at home, have the crowd, and be a Bruin,” Iginla said. “Guys play hard. Some big blocked shots. [Shawn Thornton] starting it off with a tilt there. There’s some hits. It felt good to be a part of an intense season opener again to get things started.”

Ultimately, the Bruins didn’t bring Iginla to Boston to be a fighter. They brought him here to be the first-line goal scorer he’s been his whole career. And given that Iginla scored 14 goals in last year’s lockout-shortened season and 30 or more in each of the 11 seasons prior to that, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be that.

Iginla’s track record speaks for itself. He didn’t need to prove himself to anyone on Thursday night. But the fact that he wanted to prove himself — to his new teammates and to his new home crowd — certainly bodes well for the Bruins.

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