How Tij Iginla's draft journey could see him possibly make history



Books have been written about how being the middle child often comes with not receiving the reverence that’s reserved for the oldest, or the amplified attention that’s given to the youngest.

When it comes to how he’s viewed in hockey, reverence and attention have become extremely familiar themes for Tij Iginla. Especially upon the realization that while there are hockey families, his family might be unlike any that hockey has ever encountered.

His father, Jarome, is a Hockey Hall of Famer. His oldest sibling, Jade, is the star of Brown University women’s hockey program, which she has led in scoring for the past two seasons. His youngest sibling, Joe, was a first-round pick by the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and had five points in five games this season as a 15-year-old, creating the expectation that he could be the next of his name to have a bright future.

As for the middle Iginla child? There’s a chance Tij, the Kelowna Rockets winger could be the next first-round pick in the family, and potentially get drafted even higher than his father, who was the 11th pick of the 1995 NHL Draft.

“That’d be kinda funny and pretty cool to go ahead of him,” Tij Iginla said. “The top 10 itself would be a really cool achievement too. I try not to think about that stuff too much. But yeah, that’d be pretty cool to have the bragging rights for that.”

Numerous mock drafts have Iginla going in the top 10. The fact he’s even in the discussion of being a potential top-10 pick is exactly why the Rockets traded a first-round pick, a second-round pick and Grady Lenton to the Seattle Thunderbirds last June in exchange for Iginla.

Following the trade, Iginla went from a 16-year-old trying to find his way in the WHL to a 17-year-old who scored 47 goals and 84 points in 64 games to get the Rockets to the WHL playoffs, where he added another nine goals and 15 points in 11 postseason contests.

Whatever team drafts Iginla will do it with the belief that they’re getting a player who will be a long-term top-six center and help them go from their current state to one of a franchise with legitimate championship aspirations.

That expectation will start once he hears his name at the NHL draft in Las Vegas and walks the stage to accept the jersey and handshakes from the front office that selected him. But there’s added significance to his selection: he has a chance to become a second-generation Black NHL player, which is believed to be a first.

It is believed that the NHL has only seen two generations of a family of color once before, with Ted Nolan, who is a member of the Ojibwe tribe, and his sons, Jordan and Brandon.

“I never really thought about it like that, but that’s cool to hear,” Jarome said. “Growing up, I remember as a young Black hockey player that it was important for me to see the Black players before me and over my career. I met a lot of young Black hockey players that I was fortunate enough to talk to at hockey schools. It was definitely an honor that some of them looked up to me and I was a role model for them like those guys were for me.”


IGINLA WENT FROM six goals and 18 points in 48 games as a 16-year-old, to scoring eight goals and 20 points in his first 12 games in a Rockets sweater.

What was the big change?

“He was playing on a very deep team last year in Seattle as a young 16-year-old,” Rockets coach Kris Mallette said. “He was not getting the minutes that he really needed or was able to get. That’s the biggest difference.”

It was never a question of ability for Iginla. It was more about finding the right opportunity. Scoring 26 goals and 48 points in 32 games as a 15-year-old for the RINK Hockey Academy U-18 team is why the Thunderbirds drafted him ninth in the WHL Bantam Draft in 2021.

Iginla’s first full WHL season saw him play for a Thunderbirds team that was in contention to win the Memorial Cup. By the end of the regular season, they would have 16 NHL draft picks on their roster, with six of those prospects playing on the wing.

Even with limited playing time, there were items that the Rockets found enticing about Ignila’s game.

“His release is sneaky fast,” Mallette said. “We were able to watch it firsthand playing against Seattle and on video, you can see it, but when you see it in person, you see how quickly it gets from his stick to the net. You can’t blink. You have to follow it because it can go really quickly.”

Iginla was grateful to join the Rockets because it meant he would get a chance to spend more time with his family. Jarome and Kara Iginla decided to move to Kelowna because they wanted to live in a place they would enjoy, while also being in a location that would allow their children to continue their hockey development.

“As parents, we’ve loved having him back home,” Jarome said. “It’s been really enjoyable for us. It was good for him last year to move away to Seattle. It was a good challenge. It was hard for him. He didn’t play a lot and they were a good team. But he grew in other areas.”

Living with his parents provided Iginla with a chance to get in even more work beyond what he did at practice. Jarome said the family has a shooting area along with a separate space to work on stickhandling that was designed for all of their kids to get in extra skill development.

“We put in a good hockey facility at the house so our kids can do that nightly,” Jarome said. “It’s a chance to keep growing that most people don’t have, especially billets.”

Having a place to get in extra work while going to a team that could provide him the playing time he needed has allowed Iginla to find success in his draft year.

While Iginla received more playing time, he said what specifically allowed him to finish sixth in the WHL in goals was being trusted to handle the demands of being a top-line forward. He played against other top lines and defensive pairings, while logging minutes on the Rockets’ top power-play unit.

Iginla scored 11 power-play goals for a Rockets power-play that finished ninth, while his eight game-winning goals were tied for seventh. His nine playoff goals were sixth in the WHL playoffs, though he played 11 postseason games while everyone else in the top 10 in playoff goals appeared in more than 15.

“When it’s your draft year, everyone is thinking about the draft and you’re comparing things like points,” Tij Iginla said. “But what you’re trying to do is stay focused and not worry too much about that. You just try to put it into perspective, too. The draft is obviously huge, but it’s one year. It’s your 17-year-old year and I don’t just want to [just] have a great draft year. I want to have a great NHL career.”

That level of perspective partially comes from having a dad who went through the process nearly 30 years ago.

Jarome said his draft year was “exciting but stressful” because it’s a step closer toward that lifelong dream of the NHL, while being constantly judged. He said having scouts at every game made every day matter, which can be a lot.

“Outwardly, it does not seem to be too much pressure,” Jarome explained. “I know inwardly, there are those certain days when you emphasize how you didn’t play well or you didn’t have a good game. We try to support them. We do have a lot of stories of when I went through it. I am sure they get sick of it! But there are times when it does get hard.”


CALEB AND SETH JONES. Mathieu and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Anthony and Chris Stewart. Gemel and Givani Smith. Malcolm and P.K. Subban. These are all examples of Black families that have played in the NHL, and it appears that the Iginlas could be the next, while also being the first Black father and son to play in the league.

After Willie O’Ree became the first Black player in NHL history back in 1957, the league still needed more time before it saw others. Mike Marson was next, and he didn’t make his debut until 1974. Grant Fuhr, Dirk Graham and Val James were arguably the most prominent Black players throughout the 1980s.

Yet it was in the 1990s when the NHL saw a sizable surge in Black players. There had been 17 Black players who made their NHL debut prior to 1990. Twenty-three Black players entered the NHL from 1990 through 1999.

Jarome was part of a wave that included Donald Brashear, Anson Carter, Mike Grier, Jamal Mayers and Kevin Weekes. He also became one of the faces — and for a time, the face — of the NHL. Arguably the strongest example of his reach came when he was selected as the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 2003, becoming the first Black player to grace the game’s cover. Nearly 20 years passed before P.K. Subban became the second Black player on the cover, when he received the honor with NHL 19.

Iginla also became the first Black player in NHL history to score more than 600 career goals, more than 600 career assists and 1,000 career points.

In 2020, Jarome joined O’Ree and Fuhr as the third Black player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“That’s something I have grown to appreciate as I got older,” Tij said of his father’s Hall of Fame career. “When I was a kid just watching, I knew he was a good player, but I never thought about things like that. But with as many people as he’s been able to inspire because of what he’s done is pretty cool.”

The 2000s saw 27 Black players make their NHL debut, including Evander Kane and Kyle Okposo, who played against each other in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final. But the majority of that group — along with the players who debuted in the 1990s such as Iginla — have since retired, and are now playing an instrumental role in ushering what stands to be the first set of second-generation Black players.

It’s an era that could start with Iginla, and continue with others such as Trevor Daley’s son, also named Trevor, along with Georges Laraque’s son, Marcus.

Trevor Daley Jr., who is 15, just finished playing for the Florida Alliance AAA program where he scored 75 goals and 142 points in 61 games, whereas Marcus Laraque, who is also 15, is already 6-foot-4 and scored 13 goals and 40 points in 28 games for his club team in Edmonton.

As for the elder Daley, the 40-year-old defenseman last played in the NHL during the 2019-20 season. Playing 1,058 NHL games provided Daley with the longevity that allows him to further appreciate seeing sons follow their fathers. Daley recalled when he was a rookie with the Dallas Stars during the 2003-04 season and was teammates with future Hall of Fame center Pierre Turgeon, who would have his son, Dominic, around the team.

Daley’s career would see him join the Detroit Red Wings for his three final NHL seasons. His first season with the Red Wings saw him reunite with a familiar face as Dominic Turgeon played six games for the club that season.

Playing with two generations of Turgeon’s made Daley joke that he knew it was time for him to get out of the game. But to see a son follow his father into the NHL was something Daley thought was special. To see that the Iginla’s could follow a similar path while knowing the NHL has a chance to see more Black families do the same is something Daley said could help grow the game.

“I have always been so appreciative of the ones before me that I never really thought that a second generation could be coming in,” the elder Daley said. “I never looked at it that way and always looked at the guys before me. The fact we can say ‘second generation’ and having Jarome’s kid coming up is pretty cool even for me to soak all that in, to realize we know we have ‘Jarome No. 2’ coming in.”



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