While growing up in the Edmonton suburb of St. Albert, Alberta, Iginla played many sports in addition to hockey. He was especially proficient at baseball and eventually earned the starting catcher position on the Canadian National Junior team in the early 1990s. On ice, Iginla starred for the St. Albert team in the AAHA before graduating to Canada's top level of junior hockey.
Iginla enjoyed a fulfilling junior career with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL where he scored 246 career points and won two Memorial Cups. In 1993-94, he established himself as a regular in the lineup of a junior powerhouse team. The Blazers successful Memorial Cup drive taught him many of the finer points about winning big games. Iginla's importance grew the following season when he scored 33 goals and was a big reason why the team won its second consecutive national championship. Following the tournament, Iginla was the recipient of the George Parsons Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player.
One of his boyhood dreams was fulfilled at the 1995 NHL Entry Draft held in his hometown of Edmonton. On that day, the Dallas Stars made him the 11th player chosen in the first round. Iginla gained further perspective by attending his first NHL training camp that fall. Rather than rush him to the pros, the Stars felt he would benefit from one more year of junior hockey. Besides, the upcoming year would place increased demands on Iginla as a scorer and veteran leader of a club expected to do well.
The 1995-96 season proved to be individually rewarding for Iginla. He totaled 63 goals and 136 points, but the Blazers failed to reach the Memorial Cup. During the regular season he finished fourth in the WHL scoring parade, including a seven point outing one night against the Seattle Thunderbirds. He was named the WHL's top player and placed on the CHL First All-Star Team.
A situation out of his control affected Iginla's status quite dramatically during this year of excellence. A contract dispute between the Calgary Flames and their star forward Joe Nieuwendyk became insurmountable. The NHL club resolved to trade him to resolve the impasse. The permanent loss of the popular Stanley Cup veteran needed to be offset by the acquisition of a player with whom the fans could identify. It turned out that the Dallas Stars were willing to part with Iginla and all his potential to acquire a proven scorer in Nieuwendyk.
Iginla also gained admiration based on his strong play for Canada on the international stage. He was instrumental in the Canadian gold medal victory at the 1996 World Junior Championships in Boston. Iginla led all scorers with 12 points in six games, and was placed on the tournament First All-Star Team, and was named the outstanding forward at the competition.
The Flames decided to test their young star in the intense heat of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He scored a goal and an assist in two games for the club in its Western Conference playoff loss to the Chicago Black Hawks. During his rookie season, 1996-97, he delivered on much of the potential demonstrated as a amateur. Iginla scored 21 goals and 50 points and was one of only three Calgary skaters to take part in all 82 regular season games. He played well on a forward unit with fellow rookie Jonas Hoglund and veteran centre Dave Gagner. Iginla's point total and eight power play goals topped all other NHL freshmen. When the season ended Iginla finished as the runner-up to Bryan Berard of the New York Islanders in the voting for the Calder Trophy.
Unfortunately, the Flames and Iginla struggled in 1997-98. He dropped to 13 goals and club recorded only 67 points to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. The club improved to 72 points in 1998-99 and Iginla established personal highs of 28 goals and 51 points. In the early stages of the 1999-00 schedule he struggled through the worst slump of his career but enjoyed a strong second half to finish with 29 goals. In 2000-01 he upped his totals to 31 goals and 40 assists for 71 points before establishing himself as one of the premier players in the league in 2001-02.
The 2001-02 season was a dream season for the Flames forward, he captured many individual awards including the Art Ross Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award and the Richard Trophy after scoring 52 goals and adding 44 assists for 96 points during the regular season. However, Iginla's biggest thrill in during the 2001-02 season was being named to Canada's Olympic Team and winning a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Following up such a season would be no easy task in 2002-03, Iginla and the Flames struggled early on, but he managed to turn his season around after Christmas finishing with 35 goals and 67 points. In 2003-04, Iginla and Flames turned things around, with Iginla tying for the league lead in goals with Rick Nash of Columbus and Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta. Each player went on to score 41 goals, and each sharing the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorers. Coming off a strong regular season, Iginla led the Flames to their first playoff birth since the 1995-96 season.
After upsetting the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the first round, Iginla and the Flames went on to eliminate the regular season champions, the Detroit Red Wings and followed it up against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final. Coming off three emotional series wins, Iginla and the Flames would meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final. After a hard fought series, the Flames fell short in their bid to capture their second Stanley Cup in franchise history, losing in seven games to a determined Lighting team. After capturing the Maurice Richard Trophy, Iginla added the King Clancy Memorial trophy at the year end awards ceremony.
Although Iginla and the Flames suffered a heart breaking loss to the Lightning, he would later that summer help Canada capture the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
Following the NHL lock out, Iginla would return with the Flames only to see his point totals decrease in 2005-06. Earlier that season, Iginla would once again represent his country in international competition as the right winger competed with Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics. In 2006-07, Iginla rebounded offensively and led his team in points (94) and goals (34) despite missing 12 games due to a knee injury. He bettered those totals the following season, setting new career highs with a whopping 50 goals, 48 assists for 98 points. That season Iginla appeared in all 82 games with the Flames, finished third in league scoring, and set the all time franchise record for games played.
At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Iginla would capture the second Olympic gold medal of his career, assisting on Sidney Crosby's historic overtime goal.
On April 1, 2011, Iginla became just the 77th player in NHL history to record 1,000 career points. In addition, the Flames' all-time leading scorer became the 10th player in NHL history to score at least 30 goals in ten consecutive seasons.
During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the Flames struggled and found themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. As such, rumours began to swirl that Iginla, the long-time captain, could be traded. On March 28, 2013, the rumours became reality when Iginla was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a first round draft pick and the rights to prospects Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski.