These may be the most prominent superfan groups, but they’ve got nothing on the Travelling Jagrs.
The ragtag band of mullet aficionados took to the ice of the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Florida, on Saturday afternoon for an exhibition game with local fans, and it was a game that the Czech legend himself would have appreciated.
“There was a lot of high-stepping and hair flowing,” said Tylor Keller, one of the leaders of the group. “It was so much fun."
When he’s not being Jaromir Jagr (New York Rangers edition), Keller is a realtor in Alberta, Canada. In fact, all of the Travelling Jagrs have day jobs, and most are based out of Western Canada.
“There’s a lot of legend around us right now – everyone thinks we go to every game – and we have regular jobs, right?” said Trevor Freeman, Keller’s cousin and one of the co-founders. “We just kind of pick and choose our spots."
Typically, the group of “regular Joes,” as Freeman called them, shows up at Jagr’s games in Western Canada. But for the second year in a row, they made the trek down to the opposite corner of the continent.
Last year, it was street hockey in front of the BB&T Center. This year, they shifted to the ice of the Panthers practice facility, reminiscent of the pond hockey games they played growing up. And what started as a group costume for a trip to Las Vegas has turned into much more – a chance to spread the game, become part of a burgeoning community, and even to meet the legend himself.
And it all started with a tweet to Doug Cifu, the Panthers Vice Chairman, Partner and Alternate Governor.
“Doug’s been unbelievable for us, he’s such a fan-focused, fan-friendly owner,” said Freeman. “He really made this happen."
The pickup game itself was thrilling. Former Panthers player and current broadcaster Bill Lindsay skated in the game, as did some local players. And with Jagrs on both teams – and mullets flowing – offense was abundant, with a 10-10 game ending in a shootout.
"I don’t think it could’ve ended any better,” said Freeman. “We were competitive – everyone was into it, having some fun – we got a little taste of old-time hockey."
It was a fitting prelude to the real Jagr’s game, an historic win for the Panthers. The 44-year-old scored a goal in the thrilling come-from-behind victory that set a new franchise high for single-season wins. That goal was Jagr’s 62nd point of the season – which leads the playoff-bound Cats.
“It’s funny because we started doing this like six years ago,” said Keller, "and he just keeps getting better."