Because he hasn’t played since Dec. 31, the Calgary Flames released the NHL’s second all-time leading point-scorer and he arrived in his Czech Republic homeland this week.
Under a scoreboard reading ”Return of the king,” Jagr revealed on Thursday in his first news conference at the Kladno Knights, the hometown teams he owns, that he’s been dealing with a ligament injury in his right knee.
Still, he’s aiming to play for Kladno on Saturday against Benatky nad Jizerou.
His return has created a wave of euphoria among fans. Beside Benatky nad Jizerou moving arenas, other clubs in the league report their home matches against Kladno have been sold out for the rest of the season.
The 45-year-old Jagr is determined to finish a frustrating season on ice skates, not on a couch.
”I’m here in Kladno and my only and main goal is to recover, get back to form as soon as possible, to get healthy and help our team to reach the playoffs and try to advance to the (top Czech) league,” he said.
There’s a chance, if he gets healthy enough, that he could be recalled by Calgary for the NHL playoffs. But that was far from his thoughts, he said.
”My first goal is to get healthy to start training properly and be able to enjoy hockey, which I can’t do without training,” Jagr said. ”If I’m healthy and train, I know that I’ll be hungry to manage something.”
He saw a local doctor for treatment on his knee as he soon as he arrived on Wednesday, and said his first training on Thursday was painful.
”Today, I felt worse than I expected,” he said. ”I was told it should get better, but that it would be painful in the next few days.”
Due to his health problems, Jagr said he didn’t consider joining the Czech team in Pyeongchang for what would have been his sixth Olympics.
”Right now, I’m not ready, I’m not good, and I didn’t play many games, so not a chance,” he said.
Jagr was on the Czech team that won the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the first games featuring NHL players. He also helped the Czechs win the bronze medal in Turin in 2006.
He said he hoped he can put what has happened so far this season behind him, and ”everything will get only better from now.”
”I always try to stay positive.”
Jagr is second to Wayne Gretzky on the NHL all-time points list with 1,921. He said he never cared about statistics, but admitted he hoped to join Gretzky on 2,000 points but it looked unrealistic now.
”Love, as I can see it, is the strongest energy on earth,” he said about the secret behind his long career. ”I love hockey all the time, I’ve always loved it, and had no problem to sacrifice anything to it. That’s the most important thing, a factor that helps you play as long as possible.”
Travis Dermott and Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Dermott and Holl scored their first NHL goals on Wednesday, Dermott in his ninth NHL game and Holl in his first. Dermott assisted on Holl’s goal, because of course he did.
Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals: Stephenson scored his third and fourth career NHL goals to help drag the Capitals back from an early first-period 2-0 deficit. His goals began a run of five straight for the Caps, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones sure could have used some run support on Wednesday. He made 43 of 44 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Someone owes the man a dinner.
With Jaromir Jagr officially off to the Czech Republic to continue what is left of his professional hockey career it is entirely possible that we have seen the last of him in the NHL.
It would not exactly be a fitting farewell for what is, by pretty much any objection evaluation, one of the most productive careers in the history of the sport. But then again Jagr’s career was always full of sudden changes and moves.
Throughout a career that touched three different decades, Jagr played for nine different NHL teams (Pittsburgh, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey, Florida, and Calgary) and also took a three-year hiatus to play in Russia.
He won scoring titles, an MVP award, two Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal and ended up in the top-three for games played, goals and total points in league history.
He had his moments for pretty much every team he played for, but his time with the Penguins, the team that drafted him in the first-round of the 1990 NHL draft (No. 5 overall) is what his career will probably end up being defined by. He was at his most dominant with the Penguins, he won his two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, and along with Mario Lemieux helped form one of the most dominant duos the league has ever seen.
Having been born in Pittsburgh and still living there to this day, my boss here at PHT, Sean Leahy, asked me if I had any particular memories from Jagr’s time with the Penguins that were worth sharing after watching him for so many years.
Most people from Pittsburgh that watched Jagr up close might look at one of the Stanley Cup Final runs and one of the many huge goals he scored on the way to a championship — such as his overtime goal against New Jersey in 1991, or the incredible individual effort against Chicago in 1992 to complete the Penguins’ epic Game 1 comeback. Or perhaps just marveling at the numbers he put up during the NHL’s dead-puck era.
But the moment that always stood out to me was his performance in the first-round of the 1999 playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, specifically his effort in Game 6 of that series.
The late 90s Penguins were a bizarre team to look back on.
Lemieux had retired for the first time, Ron Francis had left as a free agent, and Jagr was the focal point of a team that, other than him, was usually pretty mediocre.
They never really had a top-pairing defenseman, they struggled to find a true No. 1 goalie, and while they had a couple of really good forwards like Alexei Kovalev and Martin Straka, it really wasn’t a team that was built to win — or even seriously compete for — a Stanley Cup.
But because Jagr was so dominant and so game-changing that they always at least had a chance to make the playoffs.
The 1998-99 season was a particularly challenging one for the Penguins off the ice because the team was going through bankruptcy proceedings with Lemieux working on his plan to ultimately rescue it.
There was serious talk that the team might actually be dissolved if Lemieux’s plan failed.
Not relocated. Dissolved.
The Penguins still managed to make the playoffs that year as the No. 8 seed and ended up with a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Devils. They were heavy underdogs, not only because of the fact the Devils simply had a better team, but also because Jagr was dealing with a severe groin injury that sidelined him for four of the first five games of the series.
He was able to return to the lineup for Game 6 with the Penguins facing elimination.
Even though he was clearly not 100 percent, he not only played the game on what was basically one leg, he played 29 of the 68 minutes in the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime win.
And he was by far the best player on the ice, turning in one of the most single dominant performances of his NHL career. He tied the game with just over two minutes to play in regulation, then won it in overtime to force a Game 7 in New Jersey two nights later (the Penguins, led by Jagr, won that game as well to advance to the second round).
But it wasn’t just the two goals that stood out. It was simply the way he played. Take a look at the highlights from that game. New Jersey never had an answer for him.
Given the context of everything around that day — the financial state of the team and its uncertain future, the fact the Penguins were expected to lose, Jagr playing through a major injury and dominating — it was just a mind-blowing performance.
“I remember that like it happened yesterday,” Jagr said. “I pulled my groin in the first game. We were losing 3-2 in the series and if we would lose the first round I think the team would move to Kansas City because they had no money. We had to make the second round to get the (money) for the payments.
Jagr continued: “I came back and I tied it with a minute-and-a-half to go and then I scored in overtime. That was probably my best game ever, I would say. My most important for sure. I’ll probably never score a goal that important.
“Probably if I hadn’t scored that goal the team wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh right now. (Sidney) Crosby would be in Kansas City.”
The Penguins ended up losing in the second-round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but there was no denying how important it was in a financial sense for the team to get to the second-round that season.
Lemieux ultimately ended up rescuing the team from bankruptcy and ended up returning to the ice for another run with Jagr.
After the 2001 season Jagr’s Penguins career to an end with the trade that sent him to the Capitals for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk, marking the beginning of the second half of his career that saw him bounce around the NHL every couple of years.
Including playoffs, Jagr scored 844 goals in the NHL, with 504 of them coming as a member of the Penguins.
Given what it meant for the long-term viability of the franchise, there is an argument to be made that none were bigger than the two goals he scored in the spring of 1999, even if they did not result in a Stanley Cup that season.
Have we seen the last of Jaromir Jagr in the NHL? It seems that yes, in fact, we have.
After being placed on waivers by the Calgary Flames on Sunday, Jagr passed through the waiver wire unclaimed and has since been loaned to Kladno of the Czech 1. Liga, the team he owns and where he got his start.
“I want to thank Brad Treliving and the Calgary Flames for giving me the immense opportunity to be a part of their team and continue my NHL career this season,” said Jagr in a statement. “Although I am very disappointed that things did not turn out as we had hoped due to a number of circumstances, I am deeply grateful to the Flames, the fans and the City of Calgary for having welcomed me so generously. I now look forward to continuing the season in Kladno.”
What does that transaction mean for the Flames? Cap Friendly explains.
Placing Jagr on regular waivers & loaning him to Europe (as was reported by @TSNBobMcKenzie) instead to terminating his contract, gives the #Flames the option to recall him down the road. That flexibility will only cost CGY $370,968 in salary & 1 spot under the 50 contract limit.
If this is it for Jagr he will leave the NHL third on the all-time games played list (1,733), third in goals scored (766) and second in total points (1,921), while also having won five scoring titles, an MVP award, two Stanley Cups, and the Masterton Trophy in 2015-16.
Jagr, who turns 46 in a couple of weeks, is just the third player to ever play in the NHL past the age of 45, joining a list that includes only Gordie Howe and Chris Chelios.
After going unsigned as a free agent over the summer he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Flames just before the start of the regular season. He was limited to just 22 games, scoring one goal and adding six assists.