Jagr Watch came to an end early on Friday, July 1st. Living in Pittsburgh, I can say without a doubt that the only thing that had more people talking in the past year was the Pittsburgh Steelers making it to the Super Bowl.
The hype was near endless. Aside from Pens fanatics and local sports reporters, just about everyone in town joined the fracas. It was hard to go on Twitter or Facebook and not see comments about it. I know I put up a few, including a picture of my old Snoop Dogg "Gin and Juice" era Jagr jersey.
There is no shame in admitting that Pittsburgh Penguins fans everywhere were all hoodwinked. We had the best of intentions.
Deep down we did not want Jaromir Jagr back because he was the piece that would put the team over the top for its fourth Stanley Cup championship. Sure, he could have helped, but what we were looking for was a piece of our past.
If there is one thing that Pittsburgh does as well or better than any area in the country, and perhaps the world, it is live in the past. A return of Jagr would have been cathartic for the entire city. This was the chance to forgive.
Sure we can forgive Ben Roethlisberger for buffoonery or sexual assault, depending on whose story you believe, because he wins. After many years of exile, Terry Bradshaw has found a figurative "home" with the Steelers again.
Dave Parker spent years having batteries thrown at him, but he regularly appears at Pirates Fest now. Water under the bridge—relax guys.
There is, however, a trio of athletes—the un-holy trinity of Pittsburgh sports. Ones that can never be forgiven. Barry Bonds, Jaromir Jagr and Marian Hossa. Each committed the sins of trying to ply their talents outside of the Burgh.
Over the past few years the topic of Jagr would come up, and the potential for him spending a last hurrah with the flightless bird on his chest would intrigue us all. But each year he would sign another KHL deal and that would be that. He remained persona non grata.
This time it seemed different. He had a short list of teams: Detroit, Montreal and Pittsburgh. It started to seem like Hossa-gate all over again. But word slipped out that the Patron Saint of Pittsburgh hockey himself, made a call. Mario Lemieux and Jagr were said to have spoken about a potential return.
Time was spent watching the internet, tracking a potential flight out of the Czech Republic to New York to see when Jags would arrive. Many hours were spent speculating line combinations, how he would fit into the dressing room, if he had "matured" from his "dying alive" days, etc.
Then buzz-kill former NHLer and agent Peter Svoboda said that Jagr's "heart was in Pittsburgh." It slowly became obvious that this was all about the money, as other teams were said to have entered the mix.
While it may have been meaningless, GM Ray Shero took the Penguins offer off the table early in the morning of July 1st. Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland did the same, to his credit.
The Penguins and Wings lost nothing in the process. After all, they were not the team that traded away two bona fide goal scorers, one of which was their captain, in the past few weeks.
The Philadelphia Flyers won this round. Whether or not they win the season-long battle remains to be seen.
Two things are for certain. First, Barry Bonds will see his number retired by the Pirates sooner than Jagr will with the Penguins.
Secondly, and more importantly, the Penguins are better off without Jagr. Here are five reasons why.