It has been more than five years since Jaromir Jagr played for the Florida Panthers but his impact with the team continues to this day.
Jagr, who famously said he wanted to keep playing until he was 50, may very well have played his final game.
Speaking to iSport, Jagr said that it was getting harder and harder to continue playing at his age and that he was lacking the desire to do so.
Jagr celebrated his 50th birthday in February. He has spent the past five years playing for his Kladno squad in Czechia.
In a long-ranging interview which started about his team’s performance so far this season, Jagr spoke about when he would be coming back to play.
There is talk about reviving a Czech Winter Classic which has been postponed because of Covid. It was supposed to take place outdoors on the ski slope at the Spindleruv Mlyn mountain resort.
Jagr said if that were come back, he would probably “force myself to go play.’’
Aside from that, “it’s certainly not close,’’ Jagr said per a translation of the story.
“To be honest, I don’t even want to go back. If the Winter Classic I promised was held, I’d probably have to force myself to go play. Otherwise it doesn’t pull me back. Actually, I don’t have the motivation, I don’t feel like it. … I’ll see how it goes with the Winter Classic. Maybe I’d get a kick out of it, but I don’t even feel like it at the moment.”
As the owner of the Kladno team, one he has helped build back to the top level of the Czech league after years of regulation, Jagr has had a lot on his plate the past couple of years.
He said while he missed playing, if he only had to worry about playing hockey, perhaps his attitude for the game would be different.
“I like hockey, but it’s hard work. Physically very demanding,’’ he said.
“I spend a lot more time in the winter than before, mainly because of organizational things. Before the season we were a bit stressed, we had to deal with a lot of issues to even manage the first game.
“Even if I wasn’t the owner and only had hockey to work with, I would still have to handle the problems of playing and coaching. Just focus on hockey. This is more or less impossible. Or I’d have to stop doing the club altogether, which I don’t think would help.’’
Jagr, of course, is one of the most decorated players in hockey history.
He remains ranked second behind Wayne Gretzky in points with 1,921 and is fourth with 766 goals. Jagr’s 1,733 games played are fourth-most in NHL history.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins spent parts of three seasons with the Florida Panthers after Dale Tallon acquired him at the 2015 trade deadline from the New Jersey Devils.
Florida coach Gerard Gallant immediately placed him on the top line with youngsters Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau with both of them crediting Jagr for there transformation into dominant NHL players over the years.
Barkov heard about the trade on his way to the arena before a game one Saturday night in 2015 and could not believe it was true.
When Jagr was not offered another one-year contract by the Panthers in 2017, Barkov said his play on the ice — and work off of it — would be missed.
“Jags gave both of us so much,” Barkov said. ‘’He taught us to stay with the puck, to not give it up, fight for it. He would tell us ‘there is only one puck out there.’ We learned how to make plays and gave the puck to him.
“There is only one Jagr in the world … but we still do the things he taught us.”
In his 181 games with the Panthers, Jagr scored 49 goals with 130 points and helped lead Florida to the Atlantic Division championship in 2016.
That season, Jagr was elected captain of the Atlantic All-Star team and reluctantly joined Gallant, Aaron Ekblad and Roberto Luongo at the event in Nashville.
Jagr hit a number of milestones with the Panthers including reaching second place in NHL scoring.
He signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames in 2017 after the Panthers did not bring him back but was slowed by injuries.
Jagr played 22 games with the Flames that season scoring a goal with seven points.
His final NHL game came on New Year’s Eve in 2017, playing 11:49 in a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
Jagr was waived by the Flames in January and he joined Kladno where he has remained ever since.
“At my age, playing at any level is challenging,’’ Jagr said in the iSport article. “Prepare, motivate. Not to mention the need for rest. Thanks to the time spent in the winter and meetings between 9 and 2 in the afternoon, I don’t have time to (train) myself. Going to train tired then, I wouldn’t do that physically. …
“Last year, for example, I felt that I could help the boys in terms of hockey, I felt a sense of responsibility in terms of sports. I can’t feel it now. Now I know that even if I did my best, I wouldn’t even fit in four lines. … I don’t know if it makes sense to me at the moment.”