Just when we thought Jaromir Jagr was out, he pulled us back in.
It appeared No. 68 was done being relevant when he petered out with 22 goal-free playoff games as a Boston Bruin last spring. Signing with the New Jersey Devils meant he’d toil in obscurity and fade away. Instead, he’s busted out his best season since his three-year Kontinental League vacation. Not only have his 24 goals and 64 points in 76 games at age 42 blown us away, they’ve clinched fantasy titles for plenty of poolies who scooped him in the final rounds of drafts.
Better yet, Jagr has tacked a few more memorable moments onto a Hall of Fame career. His latest: making his teammates look away when it was a Devil skater’s turn in last night’s shootout against Buffalo. Was it superstition or was Jagr sparing his mates from watching a team that is 0-11 in shootouts? Either way, it was awesome.
It inspired me to list 20 of the best things about Jaromir Jagr, in random order, inspired by his 20 amazing years in the NHL.
1. Those rosy cheeks. Don’t you just wanna pinch ‘em? He brings out the inner grandma in all of us.
2. He shepherded us through the worst of the dead puck era. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the NHL became molasses on ice, Jagr was still tossing up 120-point seasons and winning scoring titles by 20 points.
3. Game-winning goals. Gordie Howe lovers be damned, the recorded stats say ‘Jags’ has more clinchers than any player in history. And this is a Jagr list, not a Howe list, so Jagr deserves a tip of the cap. Actually, better yet…
4. The salute. Annoying if he did it after scoring on your team, but awesome whenever he was easing the dagger into any other squad’s heart.
5. A wild man behind the wheel. Remember that? When he was a teenager? He was a menace to the road, and it was somehow endearing at the time. Especially the glove box full of speeding tickets.
6. He’s thrilled about having his own line of peanut butter.
7. For all his flash, he’s as hardworking a player as there’s ever been. Jagr is known for late-night workouts, practising with a weight-belt strapped around his waist and stickhandling dumbbells to perfect his technique. And here I was thinking pucks were heavy.
8. He’s a gold medallist and a character in a musical, all at once. Yep, the Czech Republic’s 1998 Olympic triumph inspired a musical, Nagano, in which Jagr was a pivotal character.
9. The brown locks, anyone? There’s hair, there’s hockey hair, there’s mullets and then there’s Jaromir Jagr hair. Feast your eyes. Why is he feeding Luc Robitaiile a sardine in this picture? Why not?
10. Scored 27 goals and won a Stanley Cup at age 18. What were the rest of us doing at 18? I learned how to cook with an oven when I was 27.
11. He makes for a great, dangly Santa Claus. Complete with…a really creepy guy doing a distorted voiceover? Sure.
12. The Jofa helmet, at the peak of its astronaut-ness.
13. Two goals in 18 seconds. In his 40s.
14. Tallying four points in his team’s victory, then publicly lambasting his teammates for their poor effort. It’s the type of behavior you justify by saying “I’m Jaromir Jagr.”
15. He’s almost impossible to knock off the puck at 6-foot-3 and a thick 230 pounds.
16. The dangles. Pavel Bure did it at amazing speeds and Pavel Datsyuk makes it look effortless on breakaways, but has anyone ever been better than Jagr at stickhandling his way through heavy traffic? In his heyday he looked like a dad deking out five-year-olds on the backyard rink.
17. He loves massages. Does he love them too much? Maybe. But see No. 14 for his justification.
19. His favorite player is – who else? – Jaromir Jagr.
Extra points for his amazing facial hair in this clip:
20. The smile. It was hockey’s answer to a dog perpetually wagging its tail. Long after he retires, we’ll never forget how much Jagr loved and appreciated playing the game.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin