NHL legend Jaromir Jagr was TNT’s first intermission guest during the Washington Capitals’ nationally-broadcast game against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
Taking questions from Wayne Gretzky, Rich Tocchet, and Anson Carter, Jagr gave an update on his life as majority owner and player for HC Kladno via videoconference from his native Czechia
Jagr (766 goals) was not asked about Alex Ovechkin (759) breathing down his neck for third on the all-time goals list but did end up talking about his days in Washington.
And he was apologetic to fans.
The legend @68Jagr won't give up the game he loves 🏒
— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) February 3, 2022
“My years in Washington, it wasn’t great years,” Jagr said. “I wanted to be the best and it just didn’t work out. Right now I still can’t apologize to the fans in Washington enough. I try my best but it just didn’t work out. When I got traded to New York, I switch everything again and I still love the hockey again.”
Jagr was Ted Leonsis and George McPhee’s prized trade acquisition from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the summer of 2001. The move was made with the intention of putting the Capitals over the top three years after making its first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998. Leonsis signed Jagr to a seven-year, $55.4 million deal extension months later marrying the Capitals to the future Hall of Fame forward long term before even seeing what he could deliver with the team.
“He is a dynamic, charismatic player,” Leonsis said back then. “We’ve seen him for so many years whip us so I’m really pleased our fans understand the kind of person and player this guy is and they’ve turned out here to welcome him to the city.”
Instead, Jagr was seen by fans as a sulking anchor that didn’t deliver and brought the Capitals down. During his first year with Washington, Jagr posted 21 fewer goals and 32 fewer points than his year before in Pittsburgh. The Capitals missed the playoffs Jagr’s first year. After a second full season with Jagr, the Capitals lost in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the team decided to rebuild in 2004. The Caps sent Jagr to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter. The decision to rebuild ultimately turned into the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, which ended up being Alex Ovechkin.
This isn’t the first time Jagr has apologized. In 2019, Jagr posted a photo of himself in front of the White House to his Instagram page with this caption.
“Caps fans. Sorry it didn’t work out, but I try my best. After 18 years we should look the positive way. If I would play very good , you would never had a chance to draft OVI. And you would probably didn’t win the cup last year😀👍…….. you welcome😎 11.7.2001”
Jagr was also asked by the panel if he, at age 49, could return to the NHL for a team like the Buffalo Sabres or Montreal Canadiens.
“No, I can’t,” Jagr said. “The game has changed a lot. To me, we all play in 90s. Right now, it’s become more basketball than hockey. It’s a lot more skating, not much physical stuff. Not much battling on boards. That’s what I love. I love to play in the corners, play one-on-one. Speed wasn’t any of my favorite stuff. I always practice not because I wanted to be the fasted but because I wanted to be the strongest. To me, it’s kind of different hockey than I’m used to. It’s like an All-Star Game when we played. I never liked the All-Star Games. I understand what they’re doing. It’s exciting for the fans. It’s a lot more goals. It’s beautiful goals. They’ve got a lot of skills. I’m not a fan of that game. I like a little bit of the rough game.”
Wayne Gretzky also asked if Jagr bluntly why he was still playing hockey in general.
“Every time I’m asked this question, any reporter ask me this question, I know that guy never loved anything,” Jagr said. “When you love something, it’s tough to give up. I still love hockey and I sacrifice so much for it. I cannot give up. I still love it.”
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