While he didn’t exactly get the greatest birthday present on earth, today was still a monumental day for Philadelphia’s Jaromir Jagr.
Jagr, who celebrated the big four-oh by staying home from practice with the flu, became just the NHL’s fifth active 40-plus player, joining the likes of Teemu Selanne, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sean O’Donnell and resident graybeard Dwayne Roloson (the only player born in the 1960s.)
Not that father time has slowed No. 68 down or anything. Despite missing a handful of games to a groin issue, Jagr has posted 13G-26A-39PTS in 48 games and has been a part of one of hockey’s best lines — with Flyers teammates Claude Giroux (24 years old) and Scott Hartnell (29).
“I don’t act like I’m 40 years old,” Jagr told NHL.com. “Sometimes I can act like them [the young guys].”
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette agrees.
“You really wouldn’t know (he’s 40) the way he trains and practices,” Laviolette said. “His attitude … I think sometimes age is what you make it to be. He doesn’t lean on that he’s approaching 40. He doesn’t come to practice like that. He doesn’t look for days off. He doesn’t use that.
“Actually, it’s the exact opposite. He’s been a terrific influence on our younger players … having them after practice or getting them extra work or coming back to the rink for some extra work. Just having his experience in the locker room, you wouldn’t know that he’s closing in on that number, and he doesn’t play that card. He’s been great.”
As for the man himself, Jagr says there aren’t many differences between now and his first NHL go-round. Hockey is still hockey, players are still players…that said, practice is no longer just practice.
“You have to practice a lot harder,” Jagr said of the big difference now that he’s 40. “I know that. You’ve got to love the game so much that even if you’re tired, you still have to go there. Sometimes I don’t want to go run at night, but I know if I don’t do it, tomorrow I’m going to feel worse than I did the night before.
“That’s what’s pushing me.”