Of the thousands of players who have taken the ice in the first 100 years of the NHL, it's safe to say Jaromir Jagr is one of a kind.
Jagr turned 45 Wednesday. But at an age when most players of his caliber would have been enjoying retirement and induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jagr will spend his birthday trying to help the Florida Panthers defeat the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV). A goal or an assist would make him the second NHL player to score 1,900 points.
Jagr came to the NHL as an 18-year-old with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who made him the fifth pick in the 1990 NHL Draft. With the Iron Curtain collapsing, he was able to come to North America immediately, rather than having to defect from his native Czech Republic.
Video: Jaromir Jagr speaks about some of his idols
He won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. He was a role player on those teams but became a star by the mid-1990s. Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring leader in 1994-95, finished second and fifth the next two seasons, then won four in a row from 1998-2001. His 127 points in 1998-99 are the most by any player in the past 20 seasons.
Jagr's last scoring title came when he scored 121 points for the Penguins in 2000-01. But they traded him to the Washington Capitals on July 11, 2001, and he's never spent more than four seasons with the same team since; Jagr has played with eight teams in the NHL and spent three seasons with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.
On Dec. 23, Jagr scored point No. 1,888 with an assist against the Boston Bruins that put him one ahead of Mark Messier for second place on the NHL all-time points list, trailing only Wayne Gretzky (2,857).
During the All-Star break last month, Jagr was in Los Angeles where he was honored as one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.
"It's very special, no question about it," Jagr said. "If you don't know the history about hockey you'll never be a good hockey player. You always got to have an appreciation for the guys who played before us. They made the game better and were perfect examples for us to follow them."
When Jagr completes this season, he will become the fourth-oldest player in NHL history, behind forward Gordie Howe (52 years, 11 days), defenseman Chris Chelios (48 years, 71 days) and goaltender Maurice Roberts (45 years, 345 days). Jagr has said that he'd like to play until he's 50, and though he's not the offensive dynamo he was 20 seasons ago, he's productive enough to play a top-six role in the NHL.