NHL’s ironman Jaromir Jagr still going strong for New Jersey Devils
At 42, he is the oldest player in the National Hockey League. Yet Jaromir Jagr says he is in the best shape of his life and believes he can play until age 50.
Last year, he was the leading scorer for the New Jersey Devils and became the oldest player to score more than 60 points in a season.
So far this season, he remains a key player and is one of the team’s stalwarts in ice time, averaging two ticks over 17 minutes per game.
Jagr is so old that five of his teammates were not born when the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted him in the summer of 1990.
Jagr went fifth overall in that draft and was an instant sensation – defences could no more contain him than his helmet could contain his ample mullet. The man flowed.
Playing alongside the great Mario Lemieux, Jagr won two Stanley Cups. But it was from another Pittsburgh teammate, the brilliant defenceman Paul Coffey, that he adopted the training habits that have anchored such a long career.
“When I came into the league with Pittsburgh, I liked to work out, but I didn’t know how to work out,” Jagr told the Philadelphia Daily News in 2012.
“Paul Coffey told me, ‘You’re going to do everything I do’. Coffey was the one who taught me, when you’re tired, that’s when you’ve got to work harder. Since your body is tired, you aren’t used to that. You’ll raise the level and next time your body won’t be tired.”
The Penguins raised their level and won their first Stanley Cup that year, and again the next year. Jagr has not lifted the cup since and has become a journeyman.
These days he conserves energy by playing a poacher’s game. He has slowed, but he knows how to find and create space, and, with his lower-body strength, he can hold off defencemen.
His quick wrist shot remains dangerous. His defensive game is in truth a liability, and his minus-3 is one of the poorest such marks on the Devils.
If Jagr can last another two seasons, he will reach a remarkable milestone. In 2017, he would form part of a chain of five players whose NHL careers will have spanned the first century of the league’s history: Reg Noble (1917-33) to Dit Clapper (1927-47) to Gordie Howe (1946-80) to Ray Bourque (1979-2001) to Jagr (1990-2017).
The first four are Hall of Famers. The fifth will join them, when he is ready.
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Published: November 5, 2014 04:00 AM