Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers are from the same town, Kladno, Czech Republic, and were teammates with the Flyers in 2011-12. Voracek shared his perspective on Jagr, who moved into third on the all-time points list and is the third-leading goal scorer in League history, with NHL.com.
One of my earliest hockey memories was watching Jaromir Jagr on television when I was 3 or 4 years old. It was 1992 or 1993, and we had just started getting NHL games in the Czech Republic, and he was the big superstar.
I think every single kid in the Czech Republic grew up watching Jagr. In the mid-1990s, that's what it was about with him.
Watching Jagr, one of the best parts about him is that he's from Kladno, the same hometown as me. All kids around my age in the Czech Republic loved Jagr, but he was from my town. And that's what motivated me most. I wasn't trying to be like him, but obviously when you see that he's the best at something he gives you that push; I can be there one day and I can play in the best League in the world and I can do the things he does and I can buy nice cars.
That was the push he gave me.
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One of the highlights of my life was getting to meet Jagr for the first time. It was 1994 and he was home in Kladno during the NHL lockout.
That was incredible. Just to have a chance to look at a player that's one of the best and you see him playing live, how big he is, how fast he is, how good he is. That experience was awesome. During that time I got the chance to meet him, talk to him. Before he practiced, my dad took me on the ice and asked Jags if he could take a picture with me. I was 4 years old. I still have that picture. It's pretty cool.
The first time I got to play with Jagr was during the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Germany. It was hard at first to pay attention to what I was supposed to do with Jagr out there. The first couple practices you think about it, you've watched him play growing up. In 2010, he was 38 years old and people were saying he might retire soon. But you could see he still had the game. You could tell that he was an important part of our team.
We won the gold medal at that tournament, and winning the World Championship in the Czech Republic is like winning the Olympics in Canada. It was incredible. And to be on the same team and say I won the World Championship on the same team as Jagr, it's something special.
I was traded to the Flyers in June 2011 and was a restricted free agent. I have the same agent as Jagr, Petr Svoboda. We were talking to Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren about my contract situation. And they were interested in Jags. I was with Petr in the same room, right next to him when he made that phone call. That was so cool, so great. We signed the same day with the Flyers. It's an experience that I'll remember the rest of my life.
Being teammates with Jagr, watching him every day, what stands out is his preparation for the game, his passion for the game. It's something that not everybody has. He's been a great example for the young guys, and for the older guys as well, watching him work, see how long they can keep up with him. The practices, the attitude towards people. It's incredible.
And I got to show Jagr that picture of me and him from when I was a kid. He saw it and laughed at it. It's pretty funny and pretty cool that I got to show it to him.
It's hard to believe that he's [44 years old]. People keep asking when he's going to retire, but I don't think he will, to be honest. When you look at him on the ice, it's not like he's the fastest guy. But he's so smart with his game, has such quick hands and a great shot; sees the ice so well. At his age it's so important that you can slow the game down, and that's what he does. He lets the play come to him and he uses his first step, which he still has, and with his quick hands. In my opinion, he can play in the NHL for another three years.
Jagr's legacy is part of my generation and the young kids that are 5 years old right now. They still watch him play. It's amazing. His legacy, he's done so much for Czech Republic as a country. I've always said that if Jagr ever ran for president in the Czech Republic, he'd win it. And it might happen after he retires. Wouldn't surprise me if he did.
But he's also done so much for hockey in the Czech Republic. He's likely going to retire as No. 2 on the all-time NHL scoring list. You have a guy from a small town in Czech Republic who dominates the game of hockey here in the NHL, it was very special. It's pretty amazing.