Jaromír Jágr, born February 15, 1972 in Kladno, Czechoslovakia) is an NHL player. Jagr wears the number 68 in honor of the Prague Spring rebellion that occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1968, also the year in which his grandfather died while in prison.
Jagr currently plays with the New York Rangers. He still resides in the Czech Republic during the off-season. His father, also named Jaromír Jágr, is prosperous and owns a chain of hotels. The younger Jagr began skating at age three. At the age of 16, he was playing at the highest level of competition in Czechoslovakia.
Jagr was the first Czechoslovakian player to be drafted by the NHL without first having to defect to the west. He was taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins with #5 pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft and played with them for the next ten years. He was a supporting player with the powerhouse Penguins that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He was the youngest player in NHL history, at 19 years of age, to score a goal in the Stanley Cup finals.
Before he had a clean grasp on the English language, he could be heard reading the daily weather forecast on Pittsburgh radio station WDVE in his broken, thickly accented English. He and team mate (and fellow countryman) Jiri Hrdina were promoted as the "Czechmates", a play on the term "checkmate" from chess. Some Penguins fans realized that the letters in his first name could be scrambled to form the anagram "Mario Jr", a reference to elder team mate Mario Lemieux.
From 1994-95 to 2000-01 on a decent Penguins team, Jagr won five NHL scoring titles including four in a row from 1997-98 to 2000-01, and in the 1995-96 season scored 149 points. In 1998 he led the Czech Republic's team to a gold medal at the Nagano Olympics.
With the return of Mario Lemieux from retirement, the Penguins had two superstars, but friction developed between the two. Also the struggling, small-market Penguins could no longer hope to meet Jagr's massive salary demands. Thus in 2001 they traded him to the Washington Capitals for three young prospects.
Later that year the Capitals signed Jagr to the largest contract ever in NHL history - $77 million over 7 years at an average salary of $11 million per year, with an option for an eighth year. In 2002-2003 Washington managed to finish 6th overall in the Eastern Conference, but lost to the upstart Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs.
Disgruntled, the Washington ownership spent much of 2003 trying to trade Jagr, but a year before a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was to be signed, few teams were willing to risk $11 million on Jagr. Eventually he was traded to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter and an agreement that Washington would pay appox. four million dollars per year of Jagr's salary. Jagr also agreed to defer (with interest) $1 million per year for the remainer of his contract to allow the trade to go ahead.
However, due to the new collective bargaining agreement signed before the start of the 2005-06 season, Jagr’s salary was subsequently reduced to $7.8 million, the maximum allowed under the terms of the new salary cap.
His now infamous quote to one Pittsburgh reporter that he felt like he was "dying alive" in a Penguin uniform has been well publicized in the cities where he has subsequently played.
Jaromir Jagr led the Czech Republic to Gold at the 2005 World Hockey Championship in Austria; and was elected a tournament all-star in the process. He also become a member of hockey's prestigious Triple Gold Club, players who have won a Stanley Cup, a World Hockey Championship and an Olympic gold medal.
He started strong during the beginning of the 2005 season and the return from the lockout of the NHL. He became only the fourth player in NHL history to score 10 or more goals in less than 10 games at the start of a season. His return to dominance helped the Rangers return to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but injuries to Jagr and others contributed to a quick Ranger exit in a first round sweep of the Broadway Blueshirts by the New Jersey Devils.
Jagr scored his 1,400th point on a power play goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 2, 2006. He is the leading active point scorer among European-born NHL players, and is second on the all-time points list for European players. Jagr's milestone goal pushed him past Jari Kurri into second place all-time, trailing only Stan Mikita.
On March 18, 2006 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jagr became only the sixth Rangers player in team history to break the 100-point barrier, and became the only Ranger right winger to score 100 points in a season.
On March 27, 2006 against the Buffalo Sabres, Jagr had a goal and an assist, which tied both the Rangers' single season goal record of 52 (Adam Graves, 1993–94) and the Rangers' single season points record of 109 (Jean Ratelle, 1972–73). Two nights later, on March 29, 2006, Jagr passed Ratelle when he was the primary assist on Petr Prucha's first-period goal against the New York Islanders' Rick DiPietro.
On April 8, 2006 against the Boston Bruins, Jagr scored his league-leading 53rd goal of the season, breaking the Rangers' single-season goals record of 52 set by Adam Graves in 1993-94.
After leading the league in points and goals for most of the 2005-06 NHL season and having already helped his team clinch a playoff spot, Jagr was passed by the San Jose Sharks duo of Joe Thornton (125 points) and Jonathan Cheechoo (56 goals), losing both the Art Ross and Maurice Richard trophies on the final week of the season. Jagr finished with 123 points, 54 goals, and 24 power-play goals, second in the league in all three categories. He finished third in the league in both assists with 69, and +/- at 34. Despite being inched out by Thornton for the Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy (league MVP), Jagr won his third Lester B. Pearson Award as the league's outstanding player. However, just as in Washington, playoff success was not to be for Jagr, whose Rangers were swept four games to none by the New Jersey Devils. Jagr suffered a separated shoulder in the third period of the first game of the series, which devastated him for the rest of the series.
Jagr has represented his country many times, but his play has been hindered by injuries. In 1994 he and Martin Straka arrived in the middle of the World Championships. The fans' expectations were high as Jagr was an NHL star, but before they were able to integrate into the team Czechs lost their quarterfinal game and were out of the tournament. Jagr was also hurt in numerous other games.
The 1996 World Cup of Hockey also did not see Jagr at his best. His performance was hampered by the flu and it only underscored the poor play of the whole team. After losing 7-3 to Finland, 3-0 to Sweden and 7-1 even to relatively weak Germany, the team did not qualify for the playoffs.
All this was forgotten in 1998 when the Czech Republic won the gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. It was only the third gold medal for Czech or Czechoslovak sportsmen from the Winter Olympics and it is still fondly remembered.
Jagr did not play in the 1996, 1999, 2000 or 2001 World Championships where the Czech Republic won the gold medals. He was a member of the team on the 2004 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic where the expectations were high, especially after the team won all the games in the group, but they lost in the quarterfinals game.
It was the 2005 World Championships that finally brought a gold medal to Jagr. Although he broke his finger in an early game against Germany, he played with it bandaged during the rest of the tournament and led his team to victory.
More injuries struck Jagr in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. He was injured after a hit in the game against Finland; he required stitches to his eyebrow. However, the injury was not as serious as it first seemed, and Jagr was able to play in the following games. He was unable to finish the bronze medal game due to muscle injury. Despite this trouble Jagr won the second Olympic medal in his life — bronze this time.
Jagr has been the subject of several notorious off-ice incidents: