Jaromir Jagr, in his 20th NHL season, reflects on Hall of Fame career
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BOSTON -- Jaromir Jagr turned 41 in February, but he's still a lion in hockey's winter.
The dark mane has touches of silver that weren't there in Pittsburgh when he was a young superstar, or when he played 31/2 seasons as a Ranger around the 2004-05 lockout.
"To score 50 goals in New York, that's special. Not many guys did it. To be named captain, that was great," Jagr said. "To make it all three years to the playoffs, and they had a lot of great, talented players who didn't make it for eight years, that was kind of special.
"Those three things, plus we had a good group of guys, we had a lot of fun, plus we were winning, so it was perfect."
Things haven't been as perfect for the future Hall of Fame right wing this year, when he started his 20th NHL season with the Dallas Stars and was traded on April 3. He has four assists in eight playoff games, has appeared rundown at times after battling the flu and is frustrated about not scoring.
"There's a lot guys scoring, they don't even look where they're shooting," the Czech native said with a grin. "That may be my problem right now, I'm just looking for the perfect shot; the goalies probably already know where I'm going to shoot. I'm going to have to change. Just shoot it. If I don't know where I'm going to shoot, how is he supposed to know?"
Experience tells him, Jagr said, that "you have to work hard and wait. Any good play can give you confidence. I'm not going to give up. Of course I would like to help this team a little more than I do right now . . . The most important thing is you should feel better than the guy you play against. Even if I feel tired, I'm always telling myself, 'He feels a lot worse than me.' So you've got to kind of trick the brain."
There's no trick to assessing Jagr's sterling career: With 681 goals (which ranks 10th all-time) and 1,688 points (eighth all-time) in 1,391 games and two Stanley Cups, he is the most productive European-born player ever in the NHL. And throw in an Olympic gold medal.
"You learn every day," he said. "Once you stop, you're dead or you have to quit. The game is changing, the game is quicker; if you want to stay in the league, you have to find a way to adjust. You cannot play the same game you played in 1990 . . . Like everything else, it's getting better. If you drive the best car in 1990 right now, it would look stupid."
Jagr, who had his share of speeding tickets, took the analogy even further.
"When you were younger, you like to go fast; when you're older, I'd rather take a taxi. It makes me tired to be in traffic," he said.
But his body isn't betraying him, he said. "Everything's in your head. When everything is good, you feel good, you could play another 10 years. When everything goes wrong, you could be 25 and you're feeling you should quit,'' he said. "It's any hockey player, any writers. Like you guys, I bet you had a time you wanted to quit. I'm the same way."
Whenever he leaves the NHL, Jagr will play overseas, as he has in the past. "When I'm 50 and a score a goal in the Czech league, I'll call you," he promised, as proud as a lion in winter.