Consider for a moment how much the National Hockey League changed from the time Jaromir Jagr made his debut in 1990 until his final shift in the league in 2018.
In that timeframe, the league expanded from 21 teams to 31, realigned under geographic names for divisions and conferences, and saw the sport expand its footprint into locales such as Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Las Vegas. Aside from a three-year stint in the KHL, there was Jagr, the dynamic right-winger from Czechoslovakia who was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 entry draft.
It’s hard to envision a better start to an NHL career than Jagr experienced. He played in all 80 games for the Stanley Cup champion Penguins as a rookie, turning 18 years old in February 1991 en route to scoring 27 goals and finishing with 57 points. He added three goals and 10 assists in 24 playoff games, registering five assists in the Stanley Cup finals as Pittsburgh bested the North Stars in six games. Jagr finished sixth in the Calder Trophy voting for the league’s top rookie, finishing behind winner Ed Belfour, Sergi Federov, and Mike Richter, among others.
The Penguins and Jagr ended 1992 in a similar fashion – lifting the Stanley Cup following a four-game sweep of Chicago. Jagr scored 32 goals with 37 assists in the regular season, then helped Pittsburgh surge through the postseason with 11 goals and 13 assists in 21 playoff games. He netted game-winning goals in three consecutive games: the final two games of the Patrick Division finals against the Rangers and the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Wales Conference finals vs. Boston.
Pittsburgh won its final 11 games of the 1991-92 postseason and Jagr, just a few months past his 19th birthday, scored eight goals – four game-winners – with six assists during the streak. He would not lift the Stanley Cup again in his career but was just beginning to cement himself as one of the league’s top forwards. Jagr’s point total jumped to 94 points in 1992-93 and 99 a season later, and he led the NHL with 70 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season to earn the first of seven consecutive NHL All-Star team honors.
Jagr’s best season statistically came in 1995-96, with career highs in goals (62), assists (87), and points (149), while leading the league in even-strength tallies (41), game-winning goals (12), and shots (403). He led the NHL in points for four consecutive seasons starting in 1997-98, posting a league-high 69 assists along with 52 goals in a 121-point season in 2000-01.
But after 11 seasons and 1,079 points, Jagr’s career with the Penguins ended. He was dealt to Washington on July 11, 2001, for three prospects. Washington hoped the veteran could be a difference-maker, but Jagr could not match his Pittsburgh level of production. A plus-207 player in 806 games with the Penguins, Jagr finished at plus-1 in 277 games with the Capitals, registering 201 points in 190 games and playing in just six playoff contests before Washington traded him to the Rangers in January 2004.
Jagr returned to form when the NHL returned after labor issues canceled the 2004-05 campaign, finishing 2005-06 with 54 goals, 69 assists, 123 points, and the Ted Lindsay Award. He posted a 96-point season in 2006-07 and recorded 71 points the next season, playing all 82 regular-season games in each of his three full seasons with New York.
Jagr then spent the next decade modeling a variety of jerseys. It started with a three-year stint playing for Omsk of the KHL, scoring 66 goals with 80 goals in 155 games. He returned to the NHL with Philadelphia in 2011-12, recording 54 points in 73 games while turning 40 in February. Jagr spent parts of two seasons with New Jersey before being traded to Florida in 2015, where he missed only three games from 2015-17.
His NHL career ended after recording one goal with six assists in 22 games for Calgary in 2017-18. Jagr returned home to Czechoslovakia and played with the team he owns in his hometown of Kladno. He scored 15 goals with 14 assists in 38 games in 2019-20, and the 48-year-old is reportedly considering whether it’s finally time to hang up his skates.
What’s not up for debate is his place in the record books. Jagr ranks second in NHL history in points (1,921), third in goals (766) and games played (1,733), and fifth in assists (1,155). His 135 game-winning goals are the most in league history, and his 5,637 shots rank second. Jagr represented the Czech Republic in five Olympics, recording 23 points in 28 games.
Players can be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame once they have been retired from playing professionally for three years. Jagr’s induction is a foregone conclusion … if he ever decides to stop playing.