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Plekanec on Jagr: 'He's a hero'

Canadiens center proud to hail from same hometown in Czech Republic

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

MONTREAL -- Jaromir Jagr has a God-given gift, but it's what Jagr has done day in and day out with that gift that has made him such a special player.

So says Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, who shares Jagr's hometown of Kladno in the Czech Republic and trains with the 45-year-old forward on and off the ice during the summer.

"Yes, God gave him a gift, but the gift also is that Jaromir knows his body so well," Plekanec said Monday from St. Louis, where the Canadiens will play against the Blues on Tuesday. "I don't think that any player in the world knows their body as well as Jaromir knows his own. He didn't really need to train like the other guys because he knows his body so well.

"Whatever he did paid off 100 percent. That was his huge strength. That's why he was able to play so long and not be injured as much as other guys. That was his huge advantage."

Video: Breaking down Jaromir Jagr's career thus far

Plekanec knows Jagr will return to a hero's welcome in Kladno, where he will play for the team he co-owns. Plekanec and Jagr were linemates with Kladno and the Czech Republic national team at the 2009 and 2015 IIHF World Championships and 2010 and 2014 Olympics.

"Of course, he's a hero," Plekanec said. "It's hard to imagine him being anything else because of what he accomplished, which I don't think will ever be accomplished again, certainly not by anyone from Kladno or the Czech Republic. He's a huge hero and personally, I'm really proud to be from the same city and to be a little part of his career, being able to watch him so closely."

Plekanec slumped in 2008-09 with 39 points, following a terrific 2007-08 in which he had 69 points in 81 games. Back home in the summer of 2009, Jagr counselled his countryman and helped to get his career back on track, and Plekanec responded with a bounce-back 2009-10. He had 70 points that season, an NHL career high.

"He's a very special person," Plekanec said. "I know he's always tried to help a lot of guys. When he sees the guys are working hard and trying to be better, he helps them out a lot."

 

[RELATED: Flames appreciative of short time with Jagr]

 

Plekanec figures that Jagr will play "at least another couple of years" with Kladno, and he's looking forward to seeing a legend whom he sees as an inspiration during off-season training this summer.

"I'm always excited to practice with Jaromir," he said. "You always learn so much from him when you just sit down and talk to him. I'm looking forward to it again."

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