Jaromir Jagr's traveling band of fans has experienced more growth than even his famous mullet.
From a group of six friends and relatives from the Calgary area that had to come up with a quick Halloween costume on a trip to Las Vegas seven years ago to a band of 18 hosting radio contests and getting media and fan attention wherever they go, the wig and jersey-clad Traveling Jagrs have blossomed into legend, just like their hero.
"My Twitter feed is always like, 'Where can I apply?' [from fans], and everyone wants to try on a mullet," Trevor Freeman, also known as Dallas Jagr, said with a laugh. "That's one of the most challenging parts, when you're the victim of your own success and people want to see you but you can't go to the bathroom in between periods. Now you're talking about a group of 12-18 and everyone wants one more picture.
"We're happy to accommodate. We love that fans are having fun with it the way they are."
Though not all 18 can make every game the group attends each season, they all were in the house at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday to see the Flames play Jagr and the Florida Panthers. Jagr gave them his signature salute when he spotted them in the stands. And 11 of them made the trip to Edmonton on Wednesday to see the Panthers play the Oilers.
Video: FLA@CGY: Jagr salutes the Traveling Jagrs in warmups
Over the years the Traveling Jagrs have added more family members and friends of friends who were willing to watch Jagr play in person, and wear one of his jerseys and a mullet wig. They've gone to New Jersey, Philadelphia and South Florida to see him, and formed a special bond with the Panthers organization along the way.
Last season the Panthers helped the Traveling Jagrs host a hockey game with fans and a beauty pageant-type contest for a "Non-Traveling Jagr" that ended with a mullet "crowning" ceremony during the game for the winner, Peter Drapalik.
"The Florida Panthers really do a great job of spreading the gospel of hockey in South Florida, and I think that's one of the reasons why we've been so popular there too, is because we're really excited about the game and about Jagr," Freeman said. "People kind of gravitate toward a little bit of a spectacle, but within that they end up finding out more about the game and gain a love and appreciation for the game that they may not have grown up with like we have."
The Traveling Jagrs finally met the man himself last season in Sunrise, Florida. Freeman said they'd never really pushed to meet him because they didn't want to bother him. But when the opportunity arose, it was a dream come true.
Jagr sent his girlfriend to find them in the stands that night. When they met him, Freeman said Jagr wanted to make sure none of them had tried to steal his girlfriend.
Video: MTL@FLA: Czech Republic Jagr breaks out dances moves
"He was jovial and he was funny and it was everything that we wanted it to be," Freeman said. "We understood his plight as a player and tried to respect him as much as possible when we're doing something silly like this and I think we've forged a connection with him in that way. He's taking it in the good natured way we've intended it and that's a compliment to us and what we're doing, that he can have fun with himself in that way."
When Jagr passed Mark Messier for second place on the NHL all-time scoring list this season, the Traveling Jagrs were communicating in a group text, reflecting on Jagr's evolution as a player and leader, with the added perspective of having gotten to know him and his personality.
"The biggest thing that we all talked about is [we knew] he was less thrilled with them not winning that game," Freeman said of a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 22. "It's a milestone, but even to this day his focus is on winning and the team. It's one of the most interesting things to watch, that he's entered this mentoring role and father figure and that real steward of the game role, and it's really cool."
The Traveling Jagrs are making plans for a return trip to Sunrise for "Mullet March," and even with their growth in numbers and popularity, they're still just a bunch of hockey fans at heart.
"For us it's not about our image or anything like that," Freeman said. "We've gotten an opportunity to watch a living legend play and we're trying to help people appreciate that and love the game like we do."