Former NHL forward Jaromir Jagr
became the 12th athlete to receive a Medal of Merit, given annually by the Czech president on that country's Independence Day, Oct. 28.
According to the Nov. 3 edition of the Prague Post, Jagr was the only athlete in the 22-member group of recipients selected by President Václav Klaus this year.
"I never thought I could receive such an honor. It's a great privilege for me," Jagr said in the paper.
Former NHL goalie Dominik Hasek
, former NHL coach Ivan Hlinka
and Czech Olympian Augustin Bubnik are the only other hockey players to earn the award.
Jagr, 38, is arguably the best hockey player in the history of the country.
During 16 years in the NHL, Jagr won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins
and had 1,599 points in 1,273 regular-season games with the Penguins, Washington Capitals
and New York Rangers
. He won the Art Ross
Trophy, as the NHL's top scorer, five times during his career.
"I never thought I could receive such an honor. It's a great privilege for me."
-- Jaromir Jagr
In 1998, Jagr teamed with Hasek to help the Czechs win the gold medal at the Nagano Olympics, the first time NHL players were allowed to compete in the tournament.
Jagr, currently in his third season with Avangard Omsk in Russia's KHL, could once again play for the national team this spring at the World Championships.
According to the Post article, Czech national team head coach Alois Hadamczik suggested Jagr figures prominently in his selection plans.
"I went to see him in Russia, and he told me he was interested in playing on the Czech team," Hadamczik said in the article. "While no one can stop aging, Jagr is still a big player."