Earlier today, Trib Total Media's Rob Rossi dropped a bombshell on the NHL world by announcing that Jaromir Jagr is being courted by the Penguins for a potential return!
Oh wait, it may only be for a reunion of the 1991 Stanley Cup-winning team at a golf tournament. Much ado about nothing. Nothing to see here folks. On to the next article.
But then again, when you stop and think about this, it makes sense. Who know what a little harmless flirting and some golf could turn in to. One day Jags is brushing his mullet in the clubhouse at Valley Brook Country Club, the next day he's touring the Consol Energy Center.
Okay, this is just one hockey fan getting way ahead of himself, but all kidding aside this is great news even if nothing materializes. Surely you remember Jaromir Jagr. You booed him didn't you? I hope you feel ashamed now that he may be making up with the team where he said he spent his "best years."
Things definitely ended sourly between the Penguins and Jagr. Of that there is no doubt. There was the often misguided belief that he hated Pittsburgh and was "dying alive" here. He asked to be traded, eventually going to the Washington Capitals for a sack of pucks and some guys that I'd prefer to forget.
Arguably, Jagr is the third most hated figure in Pittsburgh sports. The second would be Marian Hossa. He gets the Jagr treatment any time he plays here. Part of the joy of winning the Stanley Cup against the Red Wings was just to see the look on his face afterwards.
That brings us to the most hated athlete in Pittsburgh. It would still have to be Barry Bonds. I don't think that's posturing. Bonds never produced in the playoffs and then bolted for greener pastures. Between us, I've heard that all of his home runs may not have been "natural."
But does Jagr deserve to be in the company of Barry Bonds?
Did you ever stop and see things from poor Jaromir's side? Reports surfaced in 2003 of an IRS tax problem and many have alleged that he had a severe gambling problem. While he denies he has a problem, his financial problems have been at least somewhat well-documented for anyone with Google and a return key.
If such a scenario was true, Jagr needed money. It does not seem like he was going to get it here, where the team was floundering without a new arena and trading away its stars despite seeing Hall of Fame Owner Mario Lemieux come back from retirement. While it may be tough to hear, Jagr's departure was the best for both parties.
The years that followed were ugly. Each time he returned, Jagr was booed every time he touched the puck. It was relentless. Surely it hurt him, but he was cashing some pretty large checks. He was once so beloved here. There was a time where he carried this franchise on his broad shoulders and sizable thighs. A few seasons back, he left the New York Rangers for the income tax free money of the KHL, signing with a team called Avangard Omsk.
All of that could be ancient history with Rossi's news. At the World Championships, the Penguins were clearly on his mind judging by his quotes. Rossi also reports that Penguins GM Ray Shero is attending the Worlds and will reach out to Jagr after the Czech Republic-USA game.
So worst case scenario, Jagr comes back and plays in a golf tournament. Maybe eventually he will appear at a ceremony to retire his No. 68 at Consol Energy Center. He is surely deserving of that honor. With 1,599 regular season points, he is he all-time leading European scorer in NHL history.
Maybe, just maybe, it will lead to more, though. Despite Russian media reports, Jagr has apparently not signed a contract with Omsk. He is 39 years old and by all accounts has not decided what, if any, future he has left in hockey.
The tax-free Russian money will surely be tempting, but maybe Jagr decides to right the wrongs of the past and skate for the flightless bird once again. Those boos can become cheers again, especially with his likely spot on a lousy Pens power play.
Is Jagr returning a bit far-fetched? Perhaps, but not really much more far fetched than a guy born in Kladno, Czechoslovakia eventually becoming the second best player in Penguins franchise history (sorry Sidney Crosby, but it's true).
Personally, the booing of Jagr was something that never struck my fancy. He deserves his number raised to the rafters, to be cheered vigorously by a Pittsburgh crowd once more, and maybe before all that he can score his 1,600th point in the NHL with the team that drafted him.
Even if it goes poorly, it sure can't turn out any worse than bringing Alexei Kovalev back.
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