By Joseph Sykes | Sports Editor
Why is it that Jaromir Jagr, a 44-year-old NHL forward with 722 goals and 1,802 career points – the fourth most in league history – is not yet enshrined in Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame? Well, there’s a good reason: he’s still playing.
The Florida Panthers right winger, whose birthday was on Monday, is by far the oldest player currently on an NHL roster; New Jersey’s Patrik Elias comes in second at 39 years of age. What’s surprising, though, isn’t the fact that Jagr is still competing in a league dominated by men 15 to 20 years younger than he is. Rather, it’s the fact that he is still tallying solid numbers at such an old age.
For instance, Jagr’s point tally is very impressive at such an old age. Through 54 games played, the Czech native has netted 40, which is good for 50th overall in the league. The stat is a lot more impressive after realizing that there are currently 816 rostered players in the NHL.
What’s fascinating, though, is the fact that Jagr’s ability to thrive in the league at such an old age was almost never realized. In the summer of 2008, it seemed as if the then-36-year-old’s North American career was over after he signed with Avangard Omsk, a professional club in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Jagr played overseas with Avangard for three years before deciding to give the NHL one last shot. He earned that opportunity with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, and at the age of 39, and went on to knot 19 goals and 35 assists.
The former NHL MVP went on to play with four more teams over the next five seasons, which included the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and his current squad, the Panthers. His numbers continued to stay at an above-par level too, with one of his most productive campaigns coming during the 2013-14 season when he tallied 24 goals and 43 assists as a Devil.
With this second push, Jagr proved that he was still able to skate with the world’s best, even telling reporters that if his play continues to thrive, he’ll stick around until he’s 50.
“If I stay healthy, it’s not going to be my last year in hockey. I want to play until 50, maybe more,” Jagr told NJ.com.
That article was written in 2014 during Jagr’s last season in New Jersey. At the time, many thought it was his last go-around, but what no one knew was that he’d still be two years later. So given his recent history, speculation about his retirement should be put on hold until Jagr himself lets us know.
With 25 games left in the 2015-16 season, the Panthers currently sit atop the NHL’s Atlantic Division sit as well as sit second in the Eastern Conference. This means Jagr will most likely have another shot at the Stanley Cup Playoffs, maybe even a league championship – something he hasn’t won since he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early ’90s.
If the Panthers do win the Stanley Cup this year, make no doubt about it that Jagr will be mentioned in the same breath as some hockey’s most adored names.