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One Honor During Jaromir Jagr’s Visit Has a Nice Ring to it



Jaromir Jagr, ring of honor

Perhaps the afterglow of Jaromir Jagr’s visit to Pittsburgh and the related celebrations and activities has diminished a little, but there is something other than the No. 68 banner in the PPG Paints Arena rafters that remains as a reminder.

And, while the timing certainly worked, truth be told there is reason to believe it was overdue.

Jagr’s image has been restored to the Pittsburgh Penguins ring of honor, a black-and-white banner that circles the team’s locker rooms at the arena and their practice facility, the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

It’s something PHN called for the Penguins to do for Jagr almost five years ago, if we can brag a little.

It was done in time for the wonderful pregame banner raising ceremony Feb. 18, when the team retired Jagr’s No. 68 and made his banner just the third raised to the rafters, along with Mario Lemieux and Michele Briere.

In contrast to the ceremony that included many former teammates and others from the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup teams and a warm and funny speech by Jagr, the town-hallesque chat that was held the previous Friday evening, the practice that Saturday when Jagr joined the Penguins for some drills, and the pregame warm up that Sunday when he again went on the ice, the ring of honor change was done without fanfare.

Jagr, who turned 52 during the week or so he was in town, still plays occasional games for the pro team he owns in his hometown of Klado in Czechia, and his sure inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame will happen when he finally retires, whenever that is.

He has not played in the NHL since 2017-18, but what a legacy, including ranking No. 2 overall in points behind Wayne Gretzky.

The strapping winger began his career with the Penguins, winning the Cup in his first two seasons. He went on to play for eight more teams, and his relationship with Pittsburgh and Penguins fans wavered at times, but as was expected, the reception during his big return was rousing.

Jagr, in fact, was depicted in the ring of honor originally, along with other players, coaches and management members, when the arena opened. He was away from the NHL then, spending three seasons playing in the Russian KHL.

He was removed from the ring of honor in favor of Mark Recchi, also with no publicity, during the 2013 offseason, perhaps because he was back in the NHL then and was an occasional opponent.

But even after Jagr’s opportunities in the NHL dried up, he was not restored to the ring of honor. Until his big weekend.

Now his likeness – and of course the main image features a young Jagr, complete with that famous mullet – is back. It is on the side of the locker room where the forwards sit (above a stall currently occupied by Noel Acciari), between images of former Jagr teammate Ron Francis and Jagr’s first NHL coach, Badger Bob Johnson.

Whatever the thinking behind those moves, it was a well-deserved outcome, and thoughtful of the Penguins to do it so that Jagr was sure to see it when he was in the locker room during his recent visit.