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Jagr Gets Real; Retirement, Regrets, & ‘If You’re Satisfied, You’re Done’



Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — Sunday afternoon, Jaromir Jagr will watch his No. 68 raised to the rafters at PPG Paints Arena, just the third number retired in the 56-year history of the Pittsburgh Penguins. His jersey will hang beside idol and teammate Mario Lemieux as the Penguins and Jagr bring a long relationship that has been all things loving, strained, and wistful to a proper celebration.

In a sweeping press conference conducted first in English and then Czech, Jagr didn’t hide some regrets or his relief at being welcomed back to what he called his hockey home.

There was the will he-won’t he saga of 2011 in which it appeared Jagr was ready to re-sign with the Penguins after a several-year stint in the KHL. However, Jagr eventually signed with the rival Philadelphia Flyers not out of spite for Pittsburgh fans booing him for years, but because the Penguins were too good and he wanted a primary role.

“The Penguins had such a great team. (Sidney Crosby) had his line … Geno had his line, and I felt like I would probably play the third and fourth line. I felt like I wouldn’t get to have a chance to show what I can do,” said Jagr. “The opportunity to come to Philadelphia … I felt this is the this is a perfect fit for me, you know? I wasn’t thinking about, ‘I’m coming home to Pittsburgh.’

I was, I don’t know if I would say I was selfish, but I was thinking of myself because I still love the game. I wanted to prove I can still be a good player. Maybe it was a mistake. I don’t know, maybe if I came here, the celebration would be bigger. Maybe I would be sitting right next to (president Kevin Acklin) every day, but I love that game. So I took the chance.”

There was also the topic of Jagr’s playing career. He reminded everyone that he’s still an active player. At 52 years old, Jagr also hinted his playing days were coming to a close “very soon.”

Throughout the 20-minute press conference, Jagr was effacing and gregarious. He was thoughtful and sincere. And perhaps he shared a life philosophy worth keeping and the secret to how he has played into his early 50s.

Even though he admitted he’s probably not getting better, that’s the hope. Every day.

“Once you’re satisfied with something, you’re done. There always has to be a hunger to be better and better and better,” said Jagr. “And that’s the drive in life. I always compare myself to the Amazon jungle. If you’re satisfied in the jungle, you’re dead. There’s no, ‘I’m sorry, you were good, we let you live.’ No, somebody’s going to eat you.”

It was former teammate and Penguins color analyst Phil Bourque who brought all sides together. Last year, Bourque made the trip to Czechia to sit down with his former teammate with the hope of reconciling the organization and Jagr, leading to Sunday’s celebration.

For Jagr, the Penguins will always be home.

“Yes, I do (consider Pittsburgh my hockey home), and I always did. There was no question about it,” Jagr said somewhat sheepishly. “And when you ask anybody in the world, in Czechia, and when you say Jaromir Jagr, they going to say Pittsburgh Penguins.”

The Full Jagr Press Conference