Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The Amazing Mr. Jagr

Jaromir Jagr recently made headlines in the hockey world because he continues to move up in the career scoring leader board. He now is ranked third on the list, having passed Marcel Dionne.


For much of his playing career, Jagr has been an enigma. To say the least. Once asked to name his favourite player, he quickly replied “Jaromir Jagr!” He has baffled and amazed his opponents, as well as his teammates since the first year he arrived in the NHL in 1990.


He was the first player chosen in the draft who did not have to sneak out from behind the “Iron Curtain”. Ho chose to wear number 68, as a tribute to his fellow countrymen who made sacrifices during the Prague Spring Rebellion in 1968. His grandfather died in prison that year.


Jagr was chosen fifth that draft year. The players selected in front of him? Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, and Mike Ricci. As you can well imagine, this drafting process is not always a perfect science. Only one other member from that draft class still plays in the NHL. That would be Martin Brodeur, now with the St. Louis Blues. Barely a month ago, Brodeur was at the Quinte Sports Centre as a fan, and as the father of a player from the Oshawa Generals.


I met Jagr after the very first game he played at Maple Leaf Gardens. He caught the attention of every fan in the rink. He has imposing size, at six feet three inches. He tips the scale at 230 pounds. He takes up a lot of room on the ice, and he has always used his size to his advantage. He was a fresh-faced lad in 1990, skating for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Along with Mario Lemieux, they began to rebuild a hockey dynasty in Pennsylvania.


As he left the arena, I asked him how much he enjoyed playing in Canada for the first time. He replied, “No spicka de English”. So much for that interview! I read recently where he tried to learn the language by playing Scrabble with his teammates. But Jagr was well aware of his abilities, and he knew he could make his statements on the ice.


In 1999, he won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league’s most valuable player. He had previously won the Hart Trophy. His comment? “With this award, you get voted on by the players you play against every night, and I think they understand the game better than the media”. Ouch! He did win the Pearson Award on two more occasions, but not the Hart Trophy, as selected by the same media.


In 1994-95, he returned to the Czech Republic to play a few games for Kladno, his birthplace. He began his career there in 1988. He has returned to play there on several other occasions. He has no trouble making that squad. His father is the president of HC Kladno.


Now 42 years old, Jagr does not discuss retirement. He leads his current team, the New Jersey Devils, in scoring. He has also played for: Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, and the Boston Bruins. From 2008 to 2011, he left the NHL and played for Omsk in the Russian Kontinental League.


Always controversial, he has fought with the tax man and accountants throughout his career. He reportedly ran into difficulty with off-shore gambling folks in Belize, good people to avoid. Be my guest to check web sites which discuss his many love lives. No shrinking violet, Mr. Jagr.


Do not be surprised to find him enjoying himself in the NHL next season. The man knows how to have a good time!


There are still a few tickets remaining in the “Super Sports Draw”. You can catch me hanging around arenas, here and there. Or you might give me a shout at home: 613-399-2278. Twenty-five great sports prizes!


December16, 2014 

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