NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As one cynical longtime wag here put it, this year's NHL All-Star Game featuring John Scott and a three-on-three format has "no stars and no hockey." But then Jaromir Jagr came to a podium inside Bridgestone Arena, and everything changed.
Wearing a gray hipster T-shirt, stylish designer jeans and artsy leather wrist bracelets, Jagr looked like your super-cool uncle—and for most of the other younger All-Stars around him on hand Friday for media day, he's old enough to be one.
Jagr will turn 44 next month. He's already the oldest player of anyone in the four major sports, but one look at his statistics (15 goals, 33 points in 46 games) proves he's not over the hill just yet. And aside from a graying lock or two of his still long, rock-star-ish hair, he certainly doesn't look it.
Jagr gave a charming, winning performance at the podium. He was serious at times, taking almost 20 full seconds to contemplate one question—on what one record or accomplishment he'd most like to achieve—before giving a thoughtful answer.
"Just playing at my age is a big challenge," said Jagr, currently fourth on the all-time NHL scoring list with 737 goals and 1,835 points. "Just to play, just to be some help to my team. That's what's inspiring to me."
At another point, Jagr gave a great, pure-hockey answer to the question of how much another Stanley Cup would mean to him.
"Maybe it's just me, but it's not about the Cup. It's about the whole year, spending it with the guys," he said. "I remember when I was in Philly, [coach] Peter Laviolette came into the dressing room after the first period of a playoff game. We were in Pittsburgh. We were down 3-0 but came back and won that game. He said, 'If I were to bring in the Cup and said you could have it right now without playing another game, would you do it?' And I guarantee you everyone would say no. It's not about the Cup; it's about the suffering it takes to get it."
Most of the time Jagr was self-deprecating and just outright funny.
Will he participate in the fastest-skater competition Saturday night as part of the skills competition?
"I don't want to embarrass anyone. What if I win it?" Jagr said.
Does he expect opponents to take it easy on the old man Sunday?
"Maybe I'll take it easy on them," he said.
Jagr would rather be home resting and getting ready for the second half for the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers than playing a three-on-three All-Star Game. On the other hand, he wants to show the fans he appreciates them voting him in, and "I don't want to get suspended" for not showing up.
"I'm here, so let's have some fun," Jagr said.
Matt Duchene in Country Music Heaven
Colorado Avalanche All-Star Matt Duchene won't just be handling hockey sticks in Nashville. He plans to play plenty of guitar too.
Duchene, a country music lover, owns 10 guitars and planned to strum at a party or two as part of the weekend. He's been playing since he was 14, learning with the help of his father, Vince, who plays three musical instruments.
"I can pretty much play any country song," said Duchene, who lists Eric Church as his favorite country artist at the moment.
Duchene has quietly moved up the league scoring list with 23 goals for the surging Avs, who currently own one of the two Western wild-card spots. Duchene credits a tip from Avs general manager Joe Sakic, who suggested a curvier stick blade similar to the one he used as a player, for the uptick in goals.
Speaking of sticks, Duchene collects them from players he admires and was anxious to ask Jagr for one of his.
"I've never met him. For him to be here is so cool," he said.
John Scott Enjoying the Moment
As expected, John Scott was a popular player at the media availability. The 6'8" enforcer, currently playing for Montreal's AHL team but voted in as the Pacific Division captain, was relaxed and funny with the big crowd of reporters.
He said he wanted to soak it all in, his one and probably only All-Star experience. Part of that meant taking a picture of the media himself on his phone.
"Everybody smile," he said.
Scott, who also won everyone over with his affable nature despite some controversy over his being here, will compete in the hardest-shot competition Saturday in the skills competition. What about categories, like fastest skater?
“I tried! But they’re kind of funny about me being in all the skills. I tried to put myself in the accuracy, but I got bumped from that. They’re always editing the lists because some guys don’t want to do certain events. Bunch of prima donnas here," Scott said with a laugh.
Not a single player begrudged Scott's presence, all applauding the inclusion of a character guy like Scott.
"Nice to see a guy like him get some recognition, because guys like him help their teams more than people realize," Ottawa's Erik Karlsson said.
The Perks of Being an All-Star
Make that 11 guitars for Duchene now, and at least one for every other player.
As part of the "swag bag" of gifts given to every player was a personalized, gold Gibson Les Paul guitar. The goodie bag also included bottles of premium Jack Daniel's whiskey (supposedly only for owners and other bigwig-types but might have matriculated to a player or two, wink wink).
Barry Trotz Back in Nashville
Washington coach Barry Trotz, who spent 15 seasons coaching Nashville, was another hit at the media availability. He remains proud, he said, of how far the city has come as a hockey town.
"They love the game here, and it's just great to be able to be here for the first All-Star Game they've had," he said.
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report