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After lacking the postseason for seven-of-eight seasons from 1983 to 1990, the Pittsburgh Penguins earned the fifth-overall decide within the 1990 NHL Draft. Nonetheless trying to construct round celebrity Mario Lemieux, the crew regarded to a big-bodied Czech winger, Jaromir Jagr. The teenager prospect virtually instantly turned a rock star in Pittsburgh, flipped the script on the franchise’s historical past and an ageless legend alongside the way in which.
Jagr was born and grew up in former Czechoslovakia. He performed in Kladno, and like many different high-end athletes, started taking part in in opposition to teenage competitors at simply 10 and 11 years previous. It helps that he labored on his father’s farm and finally stuffed out a 6-foot-Three, 230-pound body. At simply 16 years previous, he performed for Kladno within the nation’s prime hockey league, scoring 30 objectives and 68 factors over two seasons earlier than heading to North America.
The 1980s Penguins had been horrible — they routinely completed close to the underside of the league within the early a part of the last decade earlier than slowly turning into a fringe playoff crew a number of seasons later. Nevertheless, after drafting Jagr to begin the 1990s period, the crew by no means missed the postseason with him on the roster. The truth is, the Penguins instantly gained back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992.
Jagr didn’t leap straight to the NHL and dominate, although. His rookie marketing campaign was a story of two halves:
First 34 video games: seven objectives. 12 factors, minus-10 ranking
Closing 46 video games: 20 objectives, 45 factors, plus-6 ranking
His turnaround was sparked by a seven-game level streak in mid-December the place he tallied 5 objectives and 10 factors. By way of the common season, he would put up two extra level streaks of at the very least six video games. Jagr tallied simply 13 factors throughout Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup run however used the success as a springboard for his profession.
The next season, Jagr’s level whole jumped to 69, with one other 24 in 21 postseason video games, on the way in which to his second Stanley Cup win in as many seasons. Sadly, he didn’t attain a 3rd Stanley Cup remaining look till his age-40 marketing campaign with the Boston Bruins. The Penguins reached the Japanese Convention remaining simply twice extra throughout Jagr’s tenure.
Jagr Fills up Trophy Case
Regardless of not lifting one other Stanley Cup, Jagr didn’t cease plastering his title throughout the file books. He notched a pair of 30-goal, 90-point campaigns earlier than the lockout-shortened 1994-95 marketing campaign. Throughout the lockout, he went again to Kladno of the Czech league and dominated, as anticipated, scoring 22 factors in 11 video games. He additionally made temporary stops in Italy and Germany, resulting in a really Jagr-like story.
The 2-time Stanley Cup winner performed for a low-end German crew for one sport as a result of he was pals with a few the present gamers. Only for enjoyable, he racked up 11 factors only for some free meals and a mattress to sleep in on his means again to the states.
Apparently, it labored. Jagr lit up scoreboards throughout the 48-game season, totaling 70 factors and taking dwelling his first Artwork Ross Trophy for main the NHL in scoring. He set profession highs of 62 objectives and 149 factors throughout the 1995-96 season, although Lemieux would earn two straight Artwork Ross Trophies throughout that point. By way of his first seven NHL seasons, Jagr racked up 266 objectives and 633 factors over 504 video games earlier than happening a run that few had executed earlier than him.
Jaromir Jagr (Picture by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Photos)
From 1998 to 2001, his remaining 4 seasons in Pittsburgh, Jagr led the NHL in scoring every year, becoming a member of Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito and Wayne Gretzky as the one gamers in league historical past to win the Artwork Ross in 4 consecutive seasons. Throughout that span, he additionally collected his first and solely Hart Memorial Trophy for league MVP whereas incomes the Lester Pearson (now referred to as the Ted Lindsay) Award, given to the league MVP as voted by his friends, twice.
Finish of an Period With Penguins
Throughout his time with the Penguins, Jagr was an absolute rock star. He was one of many league’s finest gamers, nevertheless it was his larger-than-life persona that made him a fan favourite. To today, few have grown higher hockey hair than Jagr’s flowing mullet within the early levels of his profession. He was recognized for driving too quick and by no means married, residing a Playboy life-style all through his total profession.
When issues are going nicely, all of these large character traits are enjoyable. Nevertheless, because the 1990s got here to an in depth, Jagr’s Pittsburgh profession was in its twilight levels. The celebrity demanded a commerce as followers started to query his ardour and drive. Jagr was dealt to the Washington Capitals in July 2001 in change for Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk and Michal Sivek — the three would mix for simply 73 factors in 239 profession NHL video games. Trying again, Jagr admits that he by no means needed to go away Pittsburgh however thought the franchise was higher off with out him whereas going through a tricky monetary scenario.
Life After Pittsburgh
As anticipated, the Penguins had a large gap to fill with out Jagr they usually weren’t in a position to for a number of years till drafting Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. In Jagr’s remaining season with the crew, they gained 42 video games and scored 281 objectives, second-most within the league. Their first 12 months with out him? Simply 28 wins and 198 objectives scored, 23rd within the NHL.
In the meantime, Jagr spent two-and-a-half seasons with Washington earlier than being traded once more, packing his luggage for New York to hitch the Rangers. In his first full season there, he scored 123 factors whereas incomes his third and remaining Pearson award. He by no means broke the 100-point mark once more.
Previous to that 123-point outburst, Jagr went again to Europe throughout the 2004-05 lockout, spending time as soon as once more together with his hometown Kladno crew and in addition collaborating in some KHL motion in Russia with Omsk Avangard. He later took a three-year hiatus from the NHL to go well with up with Omsk from 2009-11.
For the remainder of his profession, Jagr suited up for one more six NHL franchises. He scored a formidable 130 factors in 181 video games with the Florida Panthers as he approached his mid-40s. In his remaining NHL motion, the then-45-year-old struggled by way of 22 video games with the Calgary Flames in 2017, although he’s nonetheless taking part in again dwelling in Kladno.
Jagr’s legion of touring followers added to his historic legacy (THW Archives)
Jagr’s profession by no means had a uninteresting second. From being a high-flying, Stanley-Cup-winning teenager to touring from franchise to franchise and creating new followers as his profession got here to an in depth. The Czech begin has at all times been a fan-favorite, however extra importantly, he modified the coure of the Penguins’ franchise ceaselessly.