Beyond the Bison: Enter 68

Doug Hendry, Senior Editor

When thinking of famous athletes from the Czech Republic, there probably aren’t too many names that come to mind. But even for any casual hockey fan out there, one  good player should stand out: Jaromír Jágr.

Yes Jagr, the mullet-wearing, age-defying winger that has played for eight NHL teams throughout his career. And what has made one of the best hockey players in the world still stand out in today’s game is his age—at 44 years old, he is still beating all odds to contribute on the ice. Not only are his Florida Panthers leading the Atlantic Division with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, but he was selected as captain of the recent All-Star Game back in January.

It is incredible to see athletes maintain their ability—on the ice, court, field, you name it—as they progress into their 40s. Jagr coincides with some other Hall-of-Famers and future Hall-of-Famers who played well into their 40s, including the likes of Chris Chelios (48), Teemu Selanne (43), Mark Messier (43), and Dominik Hasek (43). Even Gordie Howe, the famous Dallas Stars forward, suited up until he was 52 years old.

Jagr probably won’t be playing for as long as Howe did, but he is still contributing on the ice, and he’s certainly been doing it for a long time. Jagr’s no dud playing well past his prime—although he’s a tad slower, he is actually playing at the level of some hockey athletes who are currently in their prime.

Through his 22 years of playing in the NHL (which ignores the three-year stint of playing back in the KHL in Russia), Jagr ranks fourth all-time in points (1849), third in goals (743), and sixth in assists (1106).

In addition to the quality numbers, Jagr also has five Art Ross Trophies for leading the league in scoring points, one Hart Memorial Trophy for most valuable player, three Lester B. Pearson Awards for most outstanding player in the regular season, 13 All-Star selections, two Stanley Cup Championships, and was an NHL All-Rookie Team selection. The man has done it all, and it simply has not been repeated.

Just like any other sport, the NHL has players that will be remembered as long as the league stands, and Jagr will be one of those players. So why am I writing about him now? Well, his time in the NHL is coming to a close, whether he retires following the end of this season, or a couple seasons down the road. I am hoping readers realize just how much of an impact he has had on the game of hockey at 44 years of age.

The fact that the length of his hockey career has surpassed the ages of several All-Star players from this year says it all. He will always have his own legacy, apart from the all-time greats. And he’s done it with so many teams over the years that he’s simply a player that you cannot root against.

Unless your favorite team makes the postseason, you better be cheering on the Florida Panthers. So far this year, Jagr leads his team with 21 goals and 47 points, and just like we’ve seen with Peyton Manning in the NFL, Jagr should go out on top.

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