Just when you think Jaromir Jagr might come back to the NHL and finish his career where he started it, as a Pittsburgh Penguin, leave it Jagr to do even more to cause Penguin fans to dislike him.
After three years in the KHL in Europe and scoring a hat trick against the United States in the 2011 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships, Jagr showed that at age 39 he still could play at a high level.
Jagr had expressed an interest in returning to the NHL, the Penguins were one of the teams interested in him, and the interest seemed mutual.
The Penguins had invited Jagr not long ago to a golf-outing reunion of the 1991 Stanley Cup team—it seemed as though the Pens were trying to extend an olive branch to Jagr and rekindle positive feelings between Jagr, the fans, and the franchise. The Penguins then offered a one-year, $2 million contact to Jagr.
Jagr chose instead to sign with the hated Philadelphia Flyers for $3.3 million dollars, which should endear Jagr even further in the hearts of Penguin fans.
Jagr first drew the wrath of Penguin fans saying he was “dying alive” in his last year as a Penguin. Jagr was unhappy in former Penguins head coach Kevin Constantine’s offensive system, and when the Pens hired former Czech Olympic coach Ivan Hlinka to appease him, Jagr wasn’t happy playing for Hlinka either.
He ultimately that he be traded, so Penguins general manager Craig Patrick sent him to the Washington Capitals, but would have gotten more value had he traded Jagr for sticks and pucks.
Five times Jagr led the league in scoring. He won the Hart trophy once, the Lester B. Pearson Award (player’s MVP) three times, and has been a part of two Stanley Cup winning teams in Pittsburgh in the early ‘90s. He's also won an Olympic Gold medal.
There’s nothing left for Jagr to prove—he is arguably the greatest European-born player to play in the NHL as he is the all-time leader in goals, assists, and points for European-born players.
The Flyers, like the Penguins, will be serious contenders for next year’s Stanley Cup. If Jagr signed with the Flyers because it was more money, one can’t blame him for that—Jagr's already won the Cup and he’s made his mark in the NHL record book by winning scoring titles and will one day be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Who of us wouldn't want more money for doing the same job?
What it may of cost Jagr is having his Penguins jersey number, 68, retired and raised to the rafters of the Consol Energy Center once his playing days are over.
Had he come to Pittsburgh, helped the Penguins on the power play, and been a team player, I think his jersey would have been retired—he is the Penguins’ second all-time leading scorer behind Mario Lemieux.
Now, as Pittsburgh's public enemy No. 1, I doubt that happens—or at least not for a long, long time.