If you were a hockey fan in the early 90’s, you probably remember watching Rock’em-Sock’em tapes and being amazed by the different goals and saves from each year. One of the standouts each time, was none other than the mullet-donning Pittsburgh Penguin winger Jaromir Jagr. He was a star of the videos not just because Don Cherry couldn’t pronounce his name correctly (Yammy, for those who don’t remember) but because he was constantly scoring highlight goals.
Now, two decades later and the ageless wonder is still going strong. Who would have known back then that we were watching a player who would go down as one of the greatest offensive players in the history of the NHL. We all knew he was great, but exactly how great was a lesson still to come.
After notching an assist last night, Jagr is now just 14 points behind Mark Messier for second place all time in NHL scoring at 1873. He ranks third in goals with 750, and sixth in assists. This season he’ll turn 45 years old, something only Gordie Howe and Chris Chelios have accomplished while still playing in the NHL, and if he stays healthy he’ll play in his 1700th career game (he currently ranks sixth all time in GP with 1640).
Those 14 points are almost a certainty, as Jagr is still producing at his advanced age. Last season saw the winger score 27 goals and 66 points, which put him just outside the league’s top-20. Again this season he has five points already, a solid pace for a middle-aged hockey player.
The most amazing thing about Jagr approaching second all-time isn’t just his age, or the brand of hockey that he’s continued to play throughout shifts in the game (he can still shield a puck better than most in the league), it’s that right in the middle, he left. Jagr spent three seasons in the KHL between 2008-11 when he was 35, only to return to the NHL and record another 274 points (so far).
For many fans, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching history when it happens on a nightly basis. The greatest players of the game aren’t remembered as such until they finally retire, or are forced out of the game. Instead of waiting to cherish memories of one of the greatest players of this or any generation, tune into a Florida Panthers game (they take on the Washington Capitals tomorrow night) and watch Jaromir Jagr play hockey. You won’t see many more like him.