Jaromir Jagr’s return to the NHL has been as glorious as anyone could have expected. He’s playing outstanding hockey alongside Claude Giroux, generally loving life as an unlikely member of the Philadelphia Flyers and the 39-year-old veteran is providing great quotes when he’s off the ice.
Just about everyone is happy for the future Hall of Famer … everyone except fans from the city where he built much of that staggering resume, that is. Jagr knows what he’s in for as the Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, but as he told Anthony J. Sanfilippo, he’s not entirely sure why he’ll receive such an angry greeting.
“How, in a situation like that, can there be so much bad attitude and anger from those people? I don’t get it.” Jagr said. “What kind of world are we in right now? That’s (bleeping) scary. We should be in a world with a lot of love. Instead there’s one guy, who is 40 years old, who is almost done, and he’s causing all that (animosity) over hockey? My brain just doesn’t understand that.”
I’ll be honest: my brain doesn’t really understand it, either. Jagr does a fine job of explaining the rather hilarious love-hate-love-really-hate relationship in Pittsburgh.
“When I left Pittsburgh I was traded,” Jagr said. “The first time I came back with Washington everybody booed me so bad. But I was traded. I didn’t leave. But they are going to hate me anyway. They’ve hated me for seven years. Then, when there is a chance that I am going to go back there, all of the sudden they switch for one or two months? Then I don’t go, and they go back to hating me, but even more than before. I don’t get it. I don’t know what kind of world we’re living in. I don’t get it.”
The Pittsburgh hate seems a little misguided, but nostalgia can be an intoxicating feeling. In a way, Penguins fans looked back at their time with Jagr like one would look at an up-and-down relationship; you tend to gloss over the painful dates in favor of those rare long walks on the beach.
When Jagr signed with the Flyers, it was like that same ex cheating on them again.
Whether it makes sense or not, Jagr’s first trip to the Consol Energy Center will seem a lot like his previous visits to the Igloo: full of boos. Don’t blame Jagr if he bares a wistful grin or two, though.