PRAGUE– Looking like an aging rock star, dressed in dark jeans and a leather jacket, Jaromir Jagr strolled through the O2 Arena in Prague. The NHL great, who owns a team in Kladno, Czech Republic, was there for the 2022 NHL World Series, which brings the NHL to his homeland, a chance for the NHL’s past to meet the present of the NHL.
Because, it seems, playing hockey may be in 50-year-old Jagr’s past.
Or maybe not.
Jagr recently told iSport, in an interview in Czech, that his motivation for the game is decreasing, that the stress of managing the team he has at Kladno is preventing him from being the player he wants. still be.
So is that it?
“That’s not it,” Jagr said Thursday at the O2 Arena, a day before the San Jose Sharks face the Nashville Predators in the NHL’s regular season opener. “But being the owner and manager and everything and having other business – because my dad isn’t feeling well anymore, he’s 80 – I don’t really have time to train.
“I still love the game. I still believe in my ability to be good. I know I would be good if I had the chance to train. Because the game doesn’t change anymore and what interests me is “is that I’ve always been able to adapt, any style. When I lose speed, it doesn’t matter. I use my power. I use my experience.
“But the thing is you have to have time to train, to compete with other players and I don’t have that.”
It hasn’t necessarily been a fully formed decision, Jagr said. It’s just the right thing to do now, for his team.
“The thing is, I’m more important to my team right now as an owner than as a player,” Jagr said. “So it can change in a week, maybe change in a month, and I start training. But it was more important to me because we built a new arena. I didn’t have the time to do it.
“I played last season, not every game, I got injured, but most games. If I didn’t take the break for six months, I wouldn’t have a problem. But at my age, when we do nothing for six months, jumping on it hurts.”
Jagr said he trained with the team recently because he was missing an injured player.
“We only had 19, so I had to go,” he said. “It is not easy.”
Jagr never had the chance to play for the NHL in his native country, missing an opportunity when the New York Rangers faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague to open the 2008-09 season. Jagr had gone to the Continental Hockey League that season to play for Omsk Avangard.
When asked if he would return to the NHL to play in the Czech Republic, he replied, “No, no, I wouldn’t. It’s too difficult for me.
“I’ve never really had a chance to play in front of my house – Czech fans, an NHL game,” Jagr said. “I played in the World Championships, it was the best thing that happened to me, but I never had a chance (in the NHL). I was very close to the Rangers, but I returned to Russia , so I didn’t sign with Rangers.”
How would it have been?
“At the time I was still quite good, so I think it would be amazing,” he said.
Although Jagr said he doesn’t get much of a chance to follow the NHL anymore — games usually start at 1 a.m. or later — he appreciates being able to see what’s new in the league.
“It’s nice to see how they train,” he said. “Because it’s even important to me [to see] how the game has changed, so I’m happy to be here.”
Jagr turned 50 on February 15, the age he always said he wanted to be while playing hockey. He played 35 professional hockey seasons, including 24 in the NHL, scoring 1,921 points (766 goals, 1,155 assists). He ranks second all-time in points, behind Wayne Gretzky (2,857) and fourth in goals, behind Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801) and Alex Ovechkin (780).
When asked which players could play until their 50s, Jagr mentioned Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Ovechkin, who is 104 goals behind Gretzky for the all-time lead.
“I think Alex Ovechkin, if he wants to be close to the record with Wayne Gretzky, I think he would play until he’s 45 because he can,” Jagr said. “He can do it because he’s strong and he wants to be the best. Sid is the same.”
Whether he’s still playing at 45 or not, will Ovechkin overtake Gretzky?
“I think so,” Jagr said. “He has all the tools to do it.”