There is simply no player like Jaromir Jagr. There has never been a player like Jaromir Jagr. And hopefully, there will never be another player like him.
Jagr is a throwback. He’s a guy who harkens to a previous era, which isn’t just foregone – it’s way gone. He’s one of the few players we’ve witnessed who has succeeded in all current generational incarnations of the NHL.
A 1990 first round pick, he thrived after the 1991-92 strike – winning a Stanley Cup. He won the league’s scoring title after the 1994-95 lockout. He shattered the Rangers record for goals after the 2004-05 lockout.
He went to Russia and was a point-per-game player in the KHL. He returned to the NHL in his late 30s and continued to score. He’s the leading scorer on the New Jersey Devils this year in his early 40s.
The man has 716 goals and 1,784 points – accrued during a stretch where lockouts wiped out essentially two seasons. And his decision to play in Russia took away three years while he was still solid. He’d easily be the NHL’s second-leading scorer if not for those facts.
Sunday, the great Jaromir Jagr turned 43.
The mullet is gone. The insane circus scoring moves only come in minimal spurts. But he’s still effective, and he’s still a mesmerizing talent for different reasons than his younger self.
You marvel at him because he hasn’t aged in dog years. Because in a seven-game playoff series, he can take the puck from a younger, stronger superstar and make a big play – looking at you Evgeni Malkin. And simply, he just loves to play hockey.
Does he care about rivalries or which team he plays for? Doesn’t seem like it. He’s an Islanders trade away from playing for all three tri-state area teams. And none of those group’s fans give a rip. If you had a strong anti-Jagr opinion at one point in your life (says this former Rangers fan) it’s now gone, just because of the length and breadth of his career.
It seems like even Penguins fans have made amends with him.
In honor of Jagr’s birthday – which is the day after Valentine’s Day – we give you the 43 things that Puck Daddy's staff (with help from NHL vice president of communications John Dellapina who covered Jagr when Dellapina worked for the New York Daily News) loves about the one and only Jaromir Jagr.
Note: These are just 43 facts, not in any real order – though the mullet and peanut butter clearly are the best.
1. The mullet. It made him look at least 5 mph faster and created international headlines when he cut it off.
2. Jagr peanut butter. How random?
3. His recent playoff facial hair could make him look like Wolverine or like a caterpillar died on his chin.
4. This hockey card
5. That he will end his career as one of the greatest scorers of all time, and was once traded for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk.
6. Selfie game
8. Jagr salute goal celebration – one of the NHL classics.
9. Jagr Claus is coming to town.
10. Marizpan Jagr -- yummy
11. The Traveling Jagrs, the super fans who rock mullets and rep all phases of his career.
12. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where we all remembered what we missed about Jags during his KHL sabbatical.
13. The Gretzky poster he kept above his bed as a child and the photo of US President Ronald Reagan he kept in a school notebook. Stories he either confirmed or denied from time to time. But signs that as a youngster in the Czech Republic, he dreamed of freedom.
13. His late career work ethic. The Flyers, to a man, were stunned to see how Jagr would run the stairs and put in the extra effort after practice. It set the tone for guys like Claude Giroux to this day.
14. His 199 points in 202 playoff games, which rank fifth all-time and the highest for a non-Edmonton Oiler.
15. That he received a “thank you” in the closing credits of the hockey movie classic “Sudden Death” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.
16. That the Kladno team he owned in the Czech Lague had a logo that looked strikingly like the LA Kings “Burger King” logo.
17. His 1998 Starting Lineup toy was gloriously ridiculous.
18. Would regularly say the things few other hockey players would hardly discuss -- including how the Penguins dived back in his day and his dad forbid him from doing it.
19. That he’s the only NHL player to play in the Stanley Cup Final as a teenager and at 40-plus years of age
20. The man seriously did not age until he returned from Russia. He looked like a kid until his late-30s.
21. Jumble up ‘Jaromir’ and you get ‘Mario Jr.’
22. He played for the Dallas Stars. Few seem to remember this 34-game tenure, where he still piled up 26 points in spite of the brutal Western Conference travel in the 2013 condensed lockout year.
23. How he made Malkin look like a pup on Boston’s Game 3 winner in its 2013 playoff series win over Pittsburgh. It was like the old Pens great saying to him ‘you’re not me.’
24. He was drafted behind Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau and Mike Ricci in 1990.
25. From 1981 through 2001 only three players led the NHL in scoring. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Jagr.
26. Jagr’s awkward 2011 return to the NHL, where his agent said his heart was in Pittsburgh … and then he signed with Philly. That. Was. Awesome.
27. Jagr was the Rangers’ first captain after Mark Messier’s second term, making what could have been an awkward transition far easier.
28. He has played for every team in the Metropolitan Division except Columbus, Carolina and the Islanders and every team in the old Atlantic division except for the Islanders.
29. Will he have his jersey retired anywhere? Do we care?
30. Stories have been written about his ass.
31. His sense of history, wearing No. 68 to recognize the Prague Spring where he lost his grandfather. How many guys wear a high number just to show off? He wore it for political reasons.
32. Jagr's inside-out goal in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final vs Chicago.
33. He wore a Jofa.
34. His bromance with Martin Straka.
35. He played in Gretzky’s last game as an opponent. It was the most fitting ‘pass the torch’ moment the NHL could have hoped for.
36. He’s the oldest player in NHL history to score a hat trick. And somehow we are all not surprised,
37. His love of country. After playing 82 games last season, he went to Minsk to play for the Czech Republic in the world championships for 10 games … at the age of 42. He still had eight points.
38. San Jose forward Tomas Hertl looks like his lovechild, and we’d believe it if this was true.
39. Jagr has never played less than 63 games in a non-lockout NHL season. Since he returned from Russia, he hasn’t played fewer than 73 in a full year’s schedule.
40. He’s probably the only hockey player with a perfect smile.
41. He played with one-arm after throwing a punch at Scott Gomez in Game 1 of New York’s first round match up against New Jersey in 2006. He was the most important player on that Rangers team and gutted out the series as best he could.
42. He was as comfortable talking politics, economics and theology as sports. And his sports knowledge was vast.
43. The fact that whenever a trade rumor pops up, it always involves Jagr going back to Pittsburgh.
(Contributing, Greg Wyshynski and Sean Leahy)
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