Jaromir Jagr (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Jaromir Jagr doesn’t have a contract for next season, but don’t go thinking that means he’s considering hanging up his skates. The 44-year-old said he wants to play until he’s 60. And while he may not have been serious, it’s hard to doubt he’s capable of such a feat.
With the season Jaromir Jagr is having, it’s getting to the point where it’s foolish to doubt him.
The 44-year-old is leading the youthful Florida Panthers with 23 goals and 54 points, he has 20-plus goals for the 19th time in his NHL career and on a nightly basis he looks like he can still compete with players literally half his age. It should come as no surprise, then, that Jagr told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston there could be a new goal in mind when it comes to longevity. Forget playing until he’s 50, Jagr says, he’s shooting for 60 — and maybe even beyond.
It’s hard to tell whether or not he’s being tongue-in-cheek when he sets 60 as his goal, but the surefire Hall of Famer made it clear that he’s not tired of the game.
“The only way you get tired with hockey is when you don’t work hard enough and you play the game and you kind of embarrass yourself,” Jagr told Johnston. “You’re embarrassed because the other guys are better than you, but that’s because you didn’t do enough to prepare for yourself for it.”
And anyone who has followed Jagr over the past few seasons knows there is no one more prepared than him. Sure, he may not be the most naturally gifted skater and his top speed may not be what it once was, but it’s hard to point to anyone who is harder to knock off the puck than Jagr. His post-game weighted-vest skates have been widely reported and he’s posted a few photos and messages to social media in the midst of late-night workouts. He’s even committed himself to taking part in optional skates, something Jagr told Johnston comes from a need to practice in order to be good, and the 21-year veteran said he’s “never tired.”
Amazingly, though, even as he keeps doing things no one could imagine, Jagr told Johnston that he’s never satisfied with himself. “I’m always chasing my maximum, so that’s why I’m never going to be happy because it’s impossible to reach it,” Jagr said. “It’s very high.”
So where does this end for Jagr? Well, with every additional point he scores this season, he’s one step closer to becoming the second-highest scoring player in NHL history. Right now, he sits 31 points behind Mark Messier for second all-time, but it’s incredibly unlikely Jagr scores another 1,001 points over the rest of his career to pass Wayne Gretzky for top spot. But if Jagr sticks around as long as he wants to, there’s a serious chance he could score his way to becoming the second player in league history to 2,000 points. Maybe that would be enough.
The next step, though, will be landing a deal. Heading into the post-season with the up-and-coming Panthers, Jagr is still without a contract for 2016-17. He signed a one-year, $3.5-million extension to stay in Florida this season, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he re-upped with the Cats to stick around at least one more year. After that, though, it’s anyone’s guess, and it seems to be a year-to-year thing for Jagr.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen – maybe a car’s going to hit me tomorrow and I’m going to be dead,” Jagr told Johnston. “You’re asking me questions; like I don’t have the (crystal) ball to see through this.”
Crystal ball or not, it seems a foregone conclusion that Jagr will be around next season and maybe for a few seasons after that. With the way he’s performing, there will certainly be offers on the table. Sticking around until 60, though? Well, it’ll be tough, especially in the NHL where the average age gets younger by the season. But if anyone can do, Jagr’s probably a safe bet.