Jaromir Jagr is the rare player that transcends generations. Every player on the Sharks, regardless of age, can say they grew up watching him. He’s seven years older than San Jose’s oldest player, Joe Thornton, and made his NHL debut five years before its youngest, Kevin Labanc, was even born.
Consider, then, what’s changed in the NHL since Jagr entered the league as an 18-year-old in 1990. Nine teams, including Jagr’s and its opponent tonight, did not exist when he entered the league. Four of the 21 teams that did exist when Jagr first played have changed cities. And one of those teams, the Winnipeg Jets, was replaced by one of the nine expansion teams.
When Jagr first played, video replay and the trapezoid behind the goalie’s crease did not exist, while the red line and the two-line pass did. Sticks are longer and goalie pads are bigger. Road teams now, usually, wear white uniforms.
So much is different, yet Jagr is the constant.He is a reminder of older eras, but Jagr is no relic. Last year, he led the Panthers in points. As a 43-year-old.
In a league that’s always getting younger, and where we’ve learned that players’ careers peak much earlier than previously thought, what Jagr’s done is simply amazing. He’s started off slowly this year, scoring only five points in 13 games. But, in four seasons in his 40s, Jagr’s averaged 0.78, 0.81, 0.61, and 0.84 points per game.
Those marks sit ninth, third, third, and first among players aged 40, 41, 42, and 43, respectively. Even what Jagr is doing as a 44-year-old is historic, as he’s just the fourth player in NHL history to play at that age.
He’s said previously that he wants to play until he’s 60. While I’d put 50, let alone 60, past him, Jagr is a fitness freak, and I could absolutely see him playing into his very late 40s, especially for the team that he owns in the Czech Republic.
Whether or not he is able to play for that long, Jagr remains a rarity, and one we probably will not see for a while. Both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have both said they want to play into their 40s, but playing as well as Jagr has at that age is another thing entirely.
Time catches up to every player, and it will catch up to Jagr. Until that happens, all we can do is sit back and enjoy watching him. Those opportunities are few and far between for Sharks fans, as he’s played the vast majority of his career in the eastern conference, and they may become even rarer, as Jagr is not signed beyond this season.
Players like Jaromir Jagr do not come around often. Cherish the chance to watch him while you still can.