It’s sort of sad how one of the greatest players in hockey history feels trapped into playing until he’s 50 years old.
Or at least he’s making it seem that way.
The truth may be that he just can’t pull himself away from the game, no matter how much he’s tarnishing his once brightly shining star.
That would also be sad.
Jaromir Jagr is coming off a season, with Rytri Kladno, in which he had 22 points in 35 regular season and playoff games combined for the second-tier team he owns in his hometown in the Czech Republic.
Only four of those points were goals.
With a victory in Game 7 of the final earlier this week, Kladno earned itself a promotion to the Czech Extraligia, the top league in country.
In his 34th season of pro hockey, Jagr is well aware he’s going to have a very tough time keeping up.
“The main reason I’m still playing is my responsibility to the club,” Jagr said, per independent correspondent Michael Langr, in a story on NHL.com. “If I did not have any, I would not be flying around on the ice here, because I’m embarrassing myself.
“I expect much more from myself and I don’t have it. But I am aware that when I leave, many (business) partners will leave the team too.”
Jagr’s NHL career really was phenomenal.
He sits second in all-time scoring (with 1,921 points) and fourth in games played (1,733) while playing for nine teams – starting with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted him fifth overall in 1990, and ending with 22 outings he had as a Calgary Flame in 2017-18.
Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy five times, the Lester B. Pearson three times, the Hart once and the Masterton once.
But he turned 49 on Feb. 15, and his elite skills deserted him long ago.
“I believe I still have it in me,” he said in a moment of denial. “It is all about working hard and putting more effort; I have to practice harder and avoid gaining weight.
“You know, I was used to scoring a goal when I wanted to score one. I have been working hard since I was very young to be able to do it. And suddenly, I feel it’s not possible anymore.
“I cannot quit,” he added. “We have an (outdoor game next season) sold out. But honestly, I know I have to be much better. I want to get better to help my team … what I know for sure is that I will do anything possible to help my club.”
Or anything not to retire and figure out what else to do with his life.
This isn’t Gordie Howe all over again.
Howe scored 15 goals and 41 points in 80 games his last season, as a 52-year-old, with the NHL’s Hartford Whalers.
The NHL isn’t Tier II hockey in Europe.
Relatively speaking, Gordie went out in glory.
This is just sorta sad.
STARTS AND STOPS: Whatever else he’s doing, Aaron Rodgers is embarrassing himself. Oh sorry, this is a hockey column … Ilya Kovalchuk has terminated his contract with KHL champion Avangard Omsk and, at the age of 38, hopes to return to the NHL. The former 50-goal scorer had nine in 40 games this season … One of the top half dozen franchises in NHL history based on their five Stanley Cups and No. 1 winning percentage (.833) in championship finals, the Penguins added to their legacy by becoming the ninth franchise to reach the post-season in 15 consecutive years when they clinched a spot on Thursday. It’s actually been done 11 times, twice by Montreal and Detroit. The Red Wings had the longest run when they qualified for the playoffs in 25 straight years, ending in 2016 …
BETWEEN PERIODS: Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored his 23rd game opening goal since the start of the 2019-20 season on Thursday. That’s 11 more than the group tied with the second most – Auston Matthews, Travis Konecny and Nikolaj Ehlers … Ten days past his 20th birthday, Florida’s Spencer Knight became the second youngest goalie in NHL history to win each of his first three appearances on Thursday. The youngest was Bill Ranford (19 years, 110 days) for the Bruins in 1985-86 …
ON THIS DATE: Exactly 29 years ago Pat LaFontaine of the Sabres became the first player in NHL history to score a goal in each of his team’s first seven games to start a playoff season. He actually had eight goals and 11 points in the Adam Division semi-final against the Bruins, but Buffalo was still eliminated in the deciding game … Exactly 28 years ago rookie Nikolai Borschevsky became the second player in NHL history to score his first playoff goal in overtime of Game 7 as the Leafs knocked off the Red Wings in the Norris Division semi-final. Borschevsky, a 28-year-old Russian, had 34 goals and 74 points that first year. He benefitted greatly from playing on line with Doug Gilmour, who had 127 points while finishing second on Hart voting to Mario Lemieux … Exactly 13 years ago Detroit’s Johan (The Mule) Franzen scored three goals in a 8-2 over the Avalanche that completed a sweep of conference quarter-final series. Franzen set a record for most goals in a four-game series by scoring nine times. Most goals in one series of any length is owned by Jari Kurri, who had 12 in a six-game elimination of the Blackhawks in 1985. Newsy Lalonde (11, in 1919) and Tim Kerr (10, in 1989) are the only other players who scored more than Franzen in one series …
PARTING SHOTS: For what it’s worth, my opinion is that Ottawa will try to long-term Brady Tkachuk but he, or someone in his camp will insist on a more cautious approach to make sure the team’s plan really is to keep the band together and there won’t be a replay of what happened with Mark Stone. The team will then have to give him a bridge deal, during which Tkachuk will play himself out of Ottawa’s price range and wind up being moved at the trade deadline in 2024 … I also believe Ottawa would have had a real shot at making the playoffs this season had management not brought in all the bad veterans that stood in the way of the prospects. The young guys would have been fine a few weeks into the season … Finally, I also liked the off-season moves the Habs made and I predicted they would win the division. Hey, nobody’s right all the time.