A marvel: How Jaromir Jagr, 45, continues to defy age in 24th season
A marvel: How Jaromir Jagr, 45, continues to defy age in 24th season:- The NHL keeps getting younger and faster and yet somehow Jaromir Jagr is playing effectively for the Calgary Flames at age 45.
He is neither young nor fast, but Jagr continues to prove there is room for an aging warrior who keeps his body finely tuned, his hockey mind razor sharp and his passion for the game at an overflowing level.
“You are going to lose (your speed),” said the 6-3, 230-pound Jagr. “Everyone says you are going to lose it, around the 30s. If someone loses their speed, they are going to replace him with somebody quicker. That’s why you have to have something that nobody has, so that they can’t replace you.”
What Jagr, now in his 24th season, has is a presence, both on the ice and in the dressing room.
“He finds a way to keep playing in this league,” Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau, 24, told USA TODAY Sports. “Down low, he’s very strong and protects the puck well. He has a lot of different attributes to his game.”
Jagr plays on a line with Sam Bennett, 21, and Mark Jankowski, 23, neither of whom were born when he broke into the NHL with the Penguins in 1990.
“I don’t know what his secret is, but it is amazing what he can do out there,” Bennett said. “He’s so smart. He reads the play well. That’s how he is able to have so much success.”
Another aspect of Jagr’s value is his willingness to mentor younger players. He has been passing along some tricks to Bennett.
“Just little things,” Bennett said. “Holding onto pucks more. That’s the biggest thing.”
Jagr, who signed two days before the season opener, instantly became a favorite in the Flames’ dressing room.
“This was a great signing for us,” Gaudreau said. “For all of us young guys, he’s someone we can learn from. He is great to have in the locker room. He is a great personality. He keeps it light. And he’s still producing.”
Despite being undermined by a groin injury, Jagr has registered five points in eight games. That’s a 45- to 50-point pace.
Jagr enjoys playing with youngsters because he believes he has the skills to take advantage of their speed and energy.
“I can hold (the puck) a little bit longer than most of the guys in the league,” said Jagr, now with his ninth team. “I don’t have the speed to beat those guys now, but they have young legs. … They can get open.”
Gordie Howe (52 years, 11 days) and Chris Chelios (48 years, 71 days) are the only players who played in the NHL at an older age than Jagr.
Jagr started thinking more about staying in the game longer when he saw others losing their place too soon.
“In your 30s, it hits you, and in three years you are out of the league because no one cares about two years ago,” Jagr said. “It’s, ‘What are you going to do for us right now?’ You see it around the league, even top players, all of a sudden, and people would question, ‘What happened?’”
Jagr played against Chelios for many years. Chelios played defense, but Jagr, a winger, sees one similarity between them.
“We didn’t mind working hard,” Jagr said. “I heard he was a crazy hard-working guy.”
Chelios’ training regimen included 50-mile bike rides and peddling on a stationary bike in a sauna. Jagr is known for working out in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping.
“I love practice,” Jagr said. “To me, the game is the pleasure. You have to work harder so you can enjoy the game. … I always wanted to work hard off the ice so I can enjoy the game a lot more. I think Chelios was the same way.”