For most players, the conclusion of a 29th professional season, which includes two dozen campaigns in the NHL, would mean it’s time to hang up the skates. One would also think that when such a career comes complete with just about every major accomplishment possible, including entrance into the Triple Gold Club and a resume that’s Hall of Fame ready, that there would be nothing left to prove, no reason to continue the grind that comes with being a professional athlete.
But, then again, most players aren’t Jaromir Jagr.
On Monday, Jagr, who celebrated his 46th birthday three months ago to the day, confirmed that he’ll be suiting up next season in the second-tier Czech League, signing on for another go-round with his hometown team, Rytiri Kladno, a franchise for which he’s the majority owner. The announcement that Jagr would be returning came as the team announced a new coaching staff, and Jagr said that he would return to the ice as part of the active roster.
This announcement, of course, comes on the heels of Jagr’s heavily publicized return to Kladno last season. Following a 16-goal, 46-point season with the Florida Panthers in 2016-17, the expectation among many was Jagr would find himself a fit in the NHL at some point during the summer. Instead, however, Jagr remained unsigned until the tail end of the off-season, at which point he landed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames.
Jagr skated in just 22 games in Calgary, however, scoring one goal and seven points. Being forced to the sidelines was something new for Jagr, too. Since returning to the NHL in 2011-12 following his brief KHL stint, Jagr had missed just 20 games in six seasons. Between a knee injury and groin injury, however, he missed 24 outings for the Flames. And in part due to injury and in part an inability to get up to speed with his new club, it became clear around mid-season that Jagr’s time in the Flames was coming to a close. In late-January, Calgary waived Jagr and he was subsequently loaned to Kladno.
That didn’t stop the speculation that Jagr could potentially attempt an NHL return ahead of the coming campaign, mind you, nor did it silence the rumblings that he would seek work in one of the top-flight European leagues. There were reportedly discussions between Jagr and German League side Eisbaren Berlin in early May, but signing on with Kladno likely means Jagr, who will turn 47 by the culmination of the 2018-19 campaign, will be sticking around in the Czech circuit.
Likewise, his re-signing in Kladno puts a pin in any potential NHL return, though the chances of such a comeback were likely non-existent anyway. The lack of interest in Jagr ahead of the current campaign, his inability to catch on and stick with the Flames and that no organization took a flyer on him when he was waived likely spelled the end of his NHL career.
By suiting up next season, Jagr will be playing in his 30th professional campaign, and with the same franchise with which he began. In 1988-89, Jagr scored three goals and six points in 29 games with HC Kladno, which was a top-tier Czech League team at the time. The goal for Jagr and his teammates — several of which are less than half of his age — will be to get Kladno back to the top division.
Unfortunately, despite his recent NHL success and history of production in the lower tiers, it’s become increasingly evident Jagr can no longer be the impact player he once was and single-handedly driving the offense for Kladno in its search for a return to the top tier is incredibly unlikely. Upon arriving in Kladno this past season, Jagr managed four points in five regular season games, but he was held off the scoresheet entirely in the post-season.
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