Jagr: A quarter century
Jagr: A quarter century
First World Championship appearance in 1990
Other players participating that year included Canadians Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey, and Doug Gilmour. Other Soviets included Vladimir Myshkin, Sergei Nemchinov, and Vyacheslav Bykov. Czech teammates included Petr Briza, Robert Holik, and Drahomir Kadlec.
Most of those great players have been retired a decade or more, but Jagr is here in Prague playing in his tenth World Championship. He is the only active player to have participated in all five Olympic Winter Games with NHL participation (Teemu Selanne having retired), and he is the only active player to have appeared in the 1991 Canada Cup.
Now that he is 43, Jagr is adding a series of age records to his resume, starting with “oldest player to score a goal in top-level World Championship play.” He breaks this record every time he scores now, adding a day or two to the record age.
He is also the only player to appear in World Championships so far apart, 25 years.
After that first World Championship in 1990, he didn’t play again until 1994, but that’s because he was helping Mario Lemieux bring the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992 and making another deep run in the playoffs in 1993.
In 1994, the Capitals beat the Penguins in the first round, so Jagr joined the Worlds midway through. Times had changed, though. Czechoslovakia was now Czech Republic; Soviet Union was now Russia. The new nation finished seventh, but that was but a hiccup in the move to independence. That year was also the last time Jagr wore a number not 68 (he used 21 in Italy).Continue reading
Then came a big gap—eight years. Jagr played at the World Cup and Olympics, but his next World Championship was 2002. He was part of that historic Olympic gold in Nagano, but in his NHL life he went to Washington for 2001-02. The team missed the playoffs, and the Czechs finished a disappointing 7th in Salt Lake, so he went to Sweden to play in the Worlds at season’s end.
That event rekindled his love for international hockey and representing his country. From 2004 to 2015, he has played in the WM seven times, and although he announced his retirement from the national team last year, he simply couldn’t pass up the chance to play in front of the home crowd chanting his name every game.
Jagr was instrumental in the team’s gold-medal victories at the 2005 and 2010 Worlds. What’s equally impressive is that in the last four Olympic years he has also played in the Worlds three times (excepting 2006 when he was injured in game three of the playoffs for the New York Rangers).
Jagr’s legacy in the Czech Republic is well established, but for NHL fans there is a sense of wonder—wonder as in, what would his numbers have been like if he hadn’t played in the KHL?
He played in Russia for three seasons, 2008-11, and by so doing missed several significant chances to make history. For instance, he now has played 1,550 regular-season games in the NHL. The record, held by Gordie Howe for 35 years and long considered untouchable, is 1,767.
Had Jagr played 240 games in the NHL for those three seasons, he’d be at 1,790 and adding to that record this coming season (he’s signed a one-year contract with Florida).
He has played 23 seasons in the NHL and will start his 24th in the fall. Howe holds that record as well, having played in 26 NHL seasons. Again, if those KHL years were in NHL currency, Jagr would be on the verge of another record.
As for points, he sits at 1,802. Only three men are ahead of him. Howe has 1,850, Mark Messier has 1,887, and Wayne Gretzky has a staggering 2,857. Add three years of points and Jagr would surely be closing in on 2,000. As it is, he can still pass Howe and perhaps Messier to move into second place on the all-time list, an extraordinary achievement.
There are clearly a few keys to his success that are an inspiration to any fan or player. First, he is in incredible shape and takes care of his body. Second, he loves the game. Passion has no replacement. Third, he’s very, very good.
Right now, in Prague, he’s demonstrating all those skills and more, much to the delight of the Czech fans.
Back to Overview