Tomas Hertl grew up idolizing Jaromir Jagr, like most Czech hockey players.
(Recall, for instance, fellow Czech David Krejci naming Jagr as his favourite player during last year's Stanley Cup Final -- moments before Jagr did the same, because he's awesome).
But Hertl's fandom goes a little beyond most. So much does he love Jagr that the San Jose Sharks' rookie agreed to recreate the bizarre but iconic picture of Czech masculinity you see above, in which a be-denimed, shirtless Jagr simultaneously holds a pitchfork, a beautiful woman and, through his smoldering, steely gaze, your undivided attention.
Yes, Tomas Hertl is very into Jaromir Jagr.
That in mind, he has to be downright giddy about Saturday night's visit from the Devils, as he'll go head-to-head with the player he's long aspired to be.
But Jagr is looking forward to it too.
He's coming for you, Hertl. Keep your head up:
Jagr is promising to end his streak of not registering a hit in his first 22 games by hitting Hertl tonight.
— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) November 23, 2013
"I've got to give him a challenge today, that's for sure," Jagr joked to the media after the Devils' morning skate. "I might get my first hit of the season."
Maybe. Tomas Hertl is not difficult to hit.
This is no small thing Jagr is suggesting. It's a pretty big deal. Jagr doesn't hit just anybody -- or rather, Jagr doesn't hit anybody. Through 22 games this season, Jagr is hitless, repeat, hitless, and it's actually pretty incredible that he's made it this far.
Granted, Jagr is basically a god among men at this point, so touching him unless invited to do so is completely out of the question. I assume guys avoid touching him out of respect, like the Kings did the other night. But even with guys staying out of his way, the fact that he doesn't even have one hit to his name is insane. 740 different men have played an NHL game this season, and 725 of them have registered at least one hit.
What's more, of the 15 that haven't, Jagr is the only NHL regular, the only guy on that short list have played more than 3 games. Again, he's played 22. That's crazy to be hitless after so many games. Even David Desharnais has 4 hits.
In my experience, if you make it to 22 without any contact, it's usually because you're saving it for someone special. It's almost as though Jagr has been waiting for the right person. Looks like Hertl is that person.
What a touching gesture it will be if and when Jagr crushes him.