In 2017, remarkably, the 45-year-old Jagr is still playing in the league, now as a member of the Calgary Flames.
Perspective: The average age of an NHL player is 27.5. Or look at it this way: 42 percent of the players on NHL opening day rosters were not even born when Jagr began his NHL career.
“I care a lot so I just want to play the best I can play,” Jagr said before his first game earlier this week. “It might be different but I always want to perform on a high level. But it’s not about me, it’s about the team and my teammates. I want to help them. I don’t want to be there just to be there. I want to make them better.”
The Czech has made a career of making teams better, ever since he was the 5th pick of the 1990 NHL Draft, where his presence quickly helped in Pittsburgh. Alongside Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, Jagr and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992.
Other than a three-year stint playing in the KHL in Russia from 2008-2011, Jagr has spent all these years in the NHL, with a variety of teams and as a stalwart with the Czech Republic’s team in international competition.
His career records can fill a page, from most game-winning goals to most points for a right wing to oldest player to tally a hat trick in a game, days before his 43rd birthday. Jagr is second to Wayne Gretzky in career points with 1,914 and also second in career games played, trailing only the great Gordie Howe.
But more important is his impact for European stars in the league. He was one of the first to come over after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and his inspiration on the players who have followed probably can’t even be quantified.
He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer and assuredly one of the most famous people ever to come from the Czech Republic. And he still impresses on the ice, even at this age.
“His puck protection is pretty amazing. It’s second to none,” said Kris Versteeg, who skated on Jagr’s line in his season debut.
“Obviously, he’s done what he has in this league and stayed around as long as he has because he can protect the puck better than anybody. That’s something we’re excited about.”
By the way, Versteeg, at 31, is a 10-year NHL veteran but was only 4 when Jagr played his first game.
While most 40-somethings still trying to suit up for a night of ice hockey are doing it in some beer league in an old rink, Jagr is still competing in the best league in the world. It’s honestly one of the most amazing stories in sports.
Jagr once said he wanted to play in the NHL until he’s 50. It might be dumb to bet against him.
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