CALGARY, AB -- Legendary. Iconic. Fabled.
Just a few adjectives, for those with a thesaurus handy, that are unequivocally accurate in depicting the mullet-rocking, age-defying, 6-foot-3, 230-pound, 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr.
“I think he came into the league when I was a year or two old,” not-so-joked Calgary Flames forward Joe Colborne, tossing in a Jagr-Original Six joke and a smile, to boot.
“It’s crazy that he’s still doing what he’s doing. He’s honestly a couple years younger than my parents,” said Brandon Bollig, split between straight-faced and showing a bit of a grin.
It’s the Jagr effect.
“I’ve grown up watching him, idolizing the guy,” said Colborne, 26, who still tallied his age in months when Jagr debuted with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 5, 1990. “The way he approaches the game, the way he works…he loves hockey. His body has been put through a lot and it doesn’t even bother him. He comes to the rink with a smile on his face, it seems like from what we’ve heard. It’s cool. It’s cool. I love playing against him.”
(Goalies notwithstanding, which Jagr has torched for 737 career NHL goals, and climbing)
Few have cobbled together the career that the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft has managed to manufacture over the course of a near-quarter century.
Fourth ever in goals scored, and will leapfrog Brett Hull’s 741 with six more tallies.
Sixth all-time in assists, and knocking on Paul Coffey’s doorstep.
Fourth in total points, with Mr. Hockey and the Moose in the crosshairs.
Five Art-Ross Trophies.
Three Lester B. Pearson Awards.
One Hart Trophy.
Thirteen All-Star selections, including an invite to Nashville in two week’s time.
“When you start comprehending the points that he’s put up,” started Colborne, “you get to those numbers and you sit down and contemplate what it takes to put those numbers up, it’s incredible.”
To think, he spent three non-work stoppage seasons spent with Omsk Avangard of the KHL, too.
His status, his longevity, nearly transcends the game.
“You know what? It’s pretty unbelievable what he’s doing,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “Talking to people around them, I think that he has changed a lot. Conditioning-wise, first on the ice, last off the ice. He loves to play the game and he’s finding ways to stay in the game. This league is getting younger and younger, but he seems to be the exception to the rule. He’s playing like a young kid.
“I’ve always admired the way that he played, and the passion that he has for the game. You see him smile on the ice. He’s having fun. I think that with a young team like this, it’s a great match. It’s a great chemistry. I’m sure that the kids are helping him, but at the same time, his experience, his knowledge of the game are helping the kids also.”
The stories are there.
They aren’t even all that hard to unearth.
Not when you’ve grown to become as big as Jagr has.
“You hear a lot of stories,” Bollig said. “I have a couple buddies on Florida. They have some good stories about it. The popular one is he’s always at the rink at night and sleeps during the day. Whatever works. Obviously it’s working out for him. I haven’t heard a bad thing about him, that’s for sure.”
The Kladno, Czech Republic native is 10th in career NHL games with 1590.
Should he fancy another tour, that figure will jump to fourth -- health pending.
But not compete level.
That’s not in question.
“Not many guys can do that,” Colborne said. “With his level of hockey sense, that’s been his saving grace. He’s been able to realize he doesn’t have the speed he used to, but through his hard work in the gym, his hard work on the ice, he’s put himself in a position where I don’t see any end in sight for the guy.
“I feel he can keep going for as long as he wants. He takes care of his body and the way he plays, he could lose another half-step and still be just as effective because he thinks the game at such a high level.
“He’s changed his game to stay extremely effective and be one of the best power forward puck controllers in the league, still.”
And, at 43, Jagr is producing.
He’s got 15 goals and 32 points heading into action in Calgary on Tuesday. Not one member of the Florida Panthers has more.
“To see that and see him thrive in the NHL still after all these years is fun to watch. It’s cool to see,” Bollig said. “I don’t know, but I imagine he’ll be back for at least another year after this. It’s cool to see him passing all these other guys on the games chart and the goal-scoring chart. It’s cool to see. It’s fun to watch as a fan in that sense. You kind of hope that it keeps going.”
Because hockey after the living legend, both on the ice and off, just doesn’t seem as fun.
“He’s awesome for the game,” Colborne said. “He’s great for the fans. He’s interactive. He does all that. He is where he is for a reason. It’s pretty incredible. He’s got the pedigree to back it up. He can do pretty much whatever he wants outside the rink, but the fact he’s still extremely effective on the ice is the only reason he’s still around.”