For some players, their number is meaningless. They get an assignment from the equipment manager, don their jersey and think nothing of the digits on their back.
That’s not the case for forward Tyrell Goulbourne and the number 12 he’s worn for most of his career, including this season with the Wolves. Every time he puts on his 12 sweater, it’s a recognition of Jarome Iginla, who inspired Goulbourne to play hockey.
“It’s an honor for me to wear it,” Goulbourne said. “I know numbers, it might just seem like a number to most people, but that number has given me a life and it represents something that I might not have had if not for Jarome Iginla being there to motivate me to try to be like him.”
Goulbourne, who grew up in Edmonton and whose mother is Jamaican, didn’t start playing hockey until he was around 7 years old. Goulbourne began his athletic life playing soccer, and was so good that he’d need to be benched to keep games close. But despite showing early potential on the pitch, he was driven to take up hockey by watching the Battle of Alberta and seeing the Oilers face Iginla, whose father was originally from Nigeria and his mother came from Oregon.
Goulbourne identified with Iginla, and despite where he grew up, began watching Iginla and the Flames. And Iginla’s impact on Goulbourne’s life has been profound. Goulbourne said “if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I’d be in the same position I am now.”
“As a kid, you didn’t see too many people who looked like me, people of color, playing the sport of hockey,” Goulbourne said. “To see somebody who looked like me… I never really played until I was maybe 7, and to see somebody who kind of looked like me. Everybody was trying to be Wayne Gretzky, or kids these days they see (Sidney) Crosby and they want to be him. He was kind of that person for me. He’s the reason I even had the confidence to pick up a hockey stick.”
Goulbourne, 26, never played against Iginla and hasn’t gotten the chance to meet him.
“That’s one thing on my bucket list,” Goulbourne said. “That’s the one person I’d love to meet in my lifetime, is him.”
Goulbourne hopes he can have the same kind of effect on future players that Iginla did. And he doesn’t minimize what Iginla means to minority hockey players.
“To me it was, you can do anything no matter what skin color you are,” Goulbourne said. “It doesn’t really matter. As a kid, it was tougher playing because there wasn’t as many minorities playing but you look around the league now, there’s tons and there’s tons in the AHL as well. For me personally, if I inspire some kid of color when before he felt like he’s uncomfortable trying to play then I did my job because I got that from (Iginla).
“The main focus for me is to be like him. If I can do the same thing for other people, that would be great.”