Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At 43, Jagr Holds Tight to Love of Game around the Nhl

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At 43, Jagr Holds Tight to Love of Game around the Nhl

Article excerpt

SUNRISE, Fla. -- When ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr joined the Panthers late last season, nine of the 19 players who skated with him that evening hadn't been born when the rugged Czech broke into the NHL on Oct. 5, 1990.

Despite skipping four seasons to play in Russia and the Czech Republic, Jagr has played 1,752 NHL games, including the postseason. The Panthers' 22-year-old franchise has played 1,694.

About to start his 25th NHL season, the Panthers are counting on the 43-year-old Jagr to anchor the top line alongside 22-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau and 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov and hopefully lead the team to the playoffs for the third time this century.

He's made more than $50 million, so the question begs: What drives this two-time Stanley Cup champion and nine-time All-Star forward to continue to play a sport with players young enough to be his sons?

"I've never been motivated by trophies or whoever won," Jagr said before training camp began last week. "I do this sport because I love it. When you look around there's people, they don't make a living by playing hockey, they have a regular job and they still go play 15 against 15 at midnight just to be there, paying for the ice, so they have to love it, too.

"I know I'm going to be one of those guys. Why not do it right now?"

Why not? Jagr is the active leader in games played, goals (722), assists (1,080), points (1,802), plus-minus (plus-91), hat tricks (15) and even-strength goals (507). He's the all-time leader in game- winning goals (129).

After coming from the Devils in a trade last February, Jagr scored 18 points in 20 games for the Panthers, so he could pass Marcel Dionne (731 goals) and Bobby Hull (741) into third place all- time.

Yet, Jagr could care less about records or milestones. His five Art Ross trophies for leading the league in scoring, an MVP Hart Trophy and three outstanding player Ted Lindsay trophies are collecting dust in the bottom of someone's closet. …

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