Retire 68 or No? @evil_shero - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

The Latest

Post Top Ad

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Retire 68 or No? @evil_shero


Sidney Crosby is to Mario Lemieux as Evgeni Malkin is to _____________?

A) Petr Nedved
B) Marian Hossa
C) Jaromir Jagr
D) Rico Fata

The obvious answer is the immortal Jaromir Jagr.

I hate using the word "polarizing" but Jagr is the epitome of exactly that. You mention his name in Pittsburgh and you are sure to get a strong reaction either way. The question I like to bring up is, "Do you retire 68 to the rafters when Jagr hang up the skates?" I literally get a 50/50 answer of Hell No, and a definitive Yes.

There is no NHL rule for retiring numbers. It's strictly up to the team. There are 122 retired numbers in the NHL with Gretzky being the only one retired league-wide. Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Mark Messier, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, and Ray Bourque have their numbers retired by multiple teams; an honor - I think - it's beyond a player like Jagr. In fact, the premisis varies so widely from team to team that Joe Mullen's number is "honoured" but not retired in St. Louis but the Wild retired the #1 for ... the ... fans? I was going to put a video of it below but it's so embarrassing that none exist.

For younger fans, Jagr was drafted 5th in 1990 being the first Czech player to be drafted to the NHL without having the "defect" to North America first. In his first season he netted 57 points and a Cup, then the next year 69 points and another Cup. During his time in the Steel City he won 5 Art Ross Trophies, 8 All-Star appearances, and a Hart Trophy. In fact in 20 years there were only 3 Art Ross winners from 1981-2001 Gretzky, Lemieux, and Jagr. Twenty ...efffing ... Years. There are dozen's of other accolades he earned in Pittsburgh somehow making a name for himself along side of the legendary Mario. He was loved by fans inside and outside of the 412. He made the mullet the preferred hairstyle of my suburban junior high school and even had a peanut butter crafted in his coiffed honor. Jagr and Pittsburgh went hand and hand. When Mario battled cancer and retirement Jagr was always there to carry the team on his freakishly large shoulders. For a decade, Jagr dominated the NHL wearing the black and gold pigeon on his chest. Why all the hatred? Well ...

2000 happened. The Pens were #16 in league attendance the lowest it was for years but with Lemieux coming out of retirement his 5.25m and Jagr's massive 9.8m contract it was clear that salary needed to be shed. Jagr was then traded in a shrewd and horrific trade with the hated rival Capitals for a bunch of jabronis. In the pre--internet days and with no cap geek or twitter, people saw this an an act of treason. It later was reported that Jagr famously said he was "dying alive" in his last year in Pittsburgh and didn't get along with then head coach Kevin Constantine. When they got a Czech coach Ivan Hlinka to appease the pouting star he was still unhappy which was either strategic team spin or Jagr's excuse to go find a huge payday with another team. He got a record setting 77m for 7 year deal with the Capitals, cut his famous mullet, and put on the Capitals sweater. This was really a big deal at the time.

Jagr: "The team went through the tough time with the bankruptcy (in 1999)," Jagr said. "It didn't have a lot of money. I thought it would be easier for the team to trade one guy than let go of three guys. If they would have kept me here, they wouldn't have signed Alex, Marty or Robert. I just wanted to make it easier for the team.

"Plus, there was no reason to keep me when Mario (Lemieux) came back." - Rob Rossi Tribune Review

Jagr couldn't carry the Capitals and Penguins fans delighted not seeing Jagr top the league in scoring and getting eliminated in the playoffs early. In 2003, the Capitals had enough of Jagr already and wanted to trade him away in order to cut salary and rebuild. Glen "Money Sack" Sather who has a long history of paying top dollar for whomever the sexiest available player is of the season worked a deal with Washington to get Jagr on the Rangers where he played the remaining 5 years on his contract. Jagr was back in the (then) Atlantic division and was subsequently booed again by the Igloo inhabitants.

To sum up, after the Rangers deal was up Jagr sojourned to the KHL presumably to get paid unrealistic money to finish up his legendary career in Russia. He played 3 years there and at age 39 had interest in going back to the NHL. The interest turned into a full blown speculation explosion (a speculsplosion (TM)) of where Jagr could go.

Pittsburgh Media dredged up this quote in The Hockey News from 2009 from Jagr when he was asked if he would consider a NHL return:

Jagr: “I was thinking about it and if Mario would call me and say, ‘I’d like you to play for our team,’ I would think about it a lot,” Jagr said in a telephone interview from Moscow where the Kontinental League will hold its inaugural All-Star Game outdoors at Red Square Saturday. “I would play for the minimum salary. I would play for $350,000 just for him because I owe him my hockey life. I want to pay him back because he has made me what I am…besides my parents.” - Ken Campbell

During the 2011 off-season, this was like a mantra to Pens fans as #JagrWatch hit manic levels. Hell, fans all collectively wrote him in on the opening day line-up that season. Somehow fans (me included at the time) thought Jagr owed us something. He owed us by being traded to our rival team, he owed us for playing for a divisional opponent, he owed us for the few years of embarrassing school pictures with majestic flowing hair capes. 

Jagr reportedly turned down a 1 year 2.2 million dollar deal from the ever-frugal Ray Shero and signed with the adversarial Flyers for 1 year 3.3 million dollar deal.  The Flyers ... 

As fans, some of us assumed that it was done intentionally to spite us. That's what fans do though, we internalize the triumphs and pains of our favorite teams and expel in healthy and unhealthy ways. After a year in Philly, Jags bounced around the NHL to Dallas, to Boston, to New Jersey all inconsequential.

Jagr: "Of course, they are going to boo me, maybe 10 times more than before. It’s fine with me. They paid the tickets, they can do whatever they want. But on the other side, I think the fans [who are]going to boo me, they [weren’t] the fans when I played there. A lot of younger guys don’t even know how I [played] over there. They can hear something, but they were probably kids. But, it’s fine with me. It’s okay." - Bob Pompeani CBS Sports KDKA

Jagr's journey in his hockey career is probably considered very untraditional, his tinelessness and and ability well surpass anyone of his peers in the sport. Does he deserve his number retired by the Penguins?

For all the reasons mentioned above, Jagr weaved himself into the fabric of the Pittsburgh sports community positively and negativity. For a decade (more than any time on one team in his career) he was who we loved, cheered, and counted on. The decision NOT to raise 68 from the rafters I would have to believe would be Mario's and his alone. There are plenty of rumors about the two Pittsburgh legends not seeing eye-to-eye but who knows what's true. I think not honoring his number would be ignoring a large slice of Penguins hockey history including the two Stanley Cups in 91 and 92.

Here are the personal records he still maintains on the Penguins leader boards. (as of 12/29/14)

Jaromir Jagr Penguins records: (lifted from wikipedia)

  • Most single-season points by a right wing – 149
  • Most single-season assists by a right wing – 87
  • Most single-season assists by a European-born player – 87
  • Most single-season PP goals by a Euro-born player – 20
  • Most single-season game-winning goals – 12
  • Most single-season shots on goal – 403
  • Most career points by a right wing – 1,079
  • Most career points by a European-born player – 1079
  • Most career goals by a right wing – 439
  • Most career goals by a European-born player – 439
  • Most career assists by a right wing – 640
  • Most career assists by a European-born player – 640
  • Most career playoff game-winning goals – 78
  • Most career power-play goals by a right wing – 110
  • Most career power-play goals by a European-born player – 110
  • Most career shorthanded goals by a European-born player – 9
  • Most career overtime goals – 9
  • Most career game-tying goals – 10
  • Most career shots on goal by a right wing – 2,911
  • Most career shots on goal by a European-born player – 2,911
  • Most career playoff goals by a right wing – 65
  • Most career playoff goals by a European-born player – 65
  • Most career playoff points by a right wing – 147
  • Most career playoff points by a European-born player – 147
  • Most career playoff shorthanded goals by a right wing – 2
  • Most career playoff shorthanded goals by a European-born player – 2
  • Most career playoff game-winning goals – 14
  • Most career playoff overtime goals – 4
  • Most career playoff shots on goal – 461
  • Most career playoff power-play goals by a right wing – 19
  • Most career playoff power-play goals by a European-born player – 19

Being a victim of a team heading for a second bankruptcy is not his fault.
The embarrassing return Craig Patrick got for Jagr is not his fault.
The money the Capitals gave him was not his fault.
His trade to the Rangers had nothing to do with the Penguins.
His quote in The Hockey News was nothing but a kind compliment for the best player in the game not a verbal contract.
The Penguins simply did not try hard enough to acquire him in 2011 as he turned down bigger offers from Montreal and Detroit to go to the team that showed the most interest.

I hope when Jagr decides to retire once and for all the Penguins do the right thing and raise the 68 to the Consol ceiling.

Jagr:"I don't know what's going to happen," Jagr said. "If something happens, it's going to take time. It's not going to be tomorrow." Rob Rossi Tribune Review

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad