NHL legend Jaromir Jagr is second all-time in career points. The man embodies longevity, with 34 pro hockey seasons and counting in the NHL and overseas. We’ll break down the best moments from one of hockey’s finest.
Jaromir Jagr started skating when he was three years old. While playing hockey as a kid in Kladno, Czech Republic, Jagr showcased natural abilities with the stick in his hand. He became a professional hockey player at 15 with the Rytiri Kladno, a team in his hometown. The sky was the limit for this hockey prodigy.
In the 1990 NHL Draft, the kid from Kladno was selected as the fifth overall pick in the draft. Before the draft, Jagr famously told NHL teams that he was going to stay overseas for a few more years. When the Pittsburgh Penguins called Jagr, he told them he’d play immediately. A big reason Jagr made this decision was the opportunity to play alongside Penguins star Mario Lemieux.
Fun fact: The 1990 NHL Draft was loaded with talent. Martin Brodeur, Doug Weight and Keith Primeau, Derian Hatcher, and Keith Tkachuk were all members of this class.
Jagr was determined to immediately impact a young and hungry contender prepared to win their first Stanley Cup. He overcame homesickness and the language barrier to become a reliable playmaker. With Jagr as the sidekick to Lemieux, the Penguins won back-to-back championships. Jagr was just a teenager and was already scoring goals in the Stanley Cup Finals. They beat the Minnesota North Stars in 1991 and the Chicago Blackhawks in 1992. He exploded in the 1992 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 21 games. Most notably, he scored the game-tying goal in Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals. This legendary play set the tone for the entire series and helped the Penguins sweep the Blackhawks.
In the 1994-95 season, Penguins legend Mario Lemieux missed the entire season due to Hodgkin's lymphoma. With the franchise’s greatest player of all time sidelined, Jagr stepped up. In the lockout-shortened season, Jagr recorded 70 points (32 goals, 38 assists) in 48 games. Jagr took home the Art Ross Trophy when it was all said and done. The following year, Jagr finished with 149 points, the most ever by a European-born player.
During the late '90s and early '00s, Jagr was a scoring machine. He won the Art Ross Trophy four consecutive seasons (1998-2001). During this span, he totaled 446 points (173 goals, 273 assists) with a 78 plus/minus. He was as entertaining on the ice as any player in NHL history.
A fan favorite for much of his career, Jagr had another great outing in the 1998-99 season. The same season he became captain of the Penguins, he scored a league-leading 127 points (44 goals, 83 assists) and ran away with the Hart Memorial Trophy. He also won the Lester B. Pearson award and the Art Ross Trophy in 1999. In terms of team success, the Penguins lost in the quarterfinals to the New Jersey Devils in seven games.
On December 30, 1999, Jagr had the game of his life. The magic mullet scored a career-high seven points (three goals, four assists) against the New York Islanders. Jagr’s dominant performance was the best game of his entire career, statistically speaking. He scored seven points again four years later as a member of the Washington Capitals.
While Jagr was unquestionably one of the best players on the Penguins’ roster, tensions were rising. His tumultuous relationship with Penguins head coach Ivan Hlinka was reaching a breaking point. On the ice, Lemieux was in the middle of a comeback run as a player-owner after buying the bankrupt Penguins. This made Lemieux the de facto team leader — even if Jagr was the franchise player and captain. With Lemieux back, the team couldn’t afford both players due to salary cap issues. The Penguins put Jagr on the trading block.
In 2001, Jagr was traded to the Washington Capitals. Jagr signed a monster 7-year, $77 million contract with the Caps. While his Penguins days were over, he was one of the best to ever wear the Black and Gold along with Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. He was the top dawg on the team and was tasked with hoisting the Caps' first Stanley Cup. After coming so close in 1997-1998, the Caps thought anything was possible with Jagr in the mix.
Washington missed the playoffs in his first year. They made the playoffs the following year but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. The Washington Capitals were looking to clean house in the middle of a disappointing outing in the 2003-04 season. The rebuilding Caps tried to trade him to clear salary cap space, but no one wanted to take on his salary, which wasn’t team-friendly. Eventually, the Caps were able to find a suitor.
Jagr was jettisoned to the New York Rangers in the middle of the 2003-04 season. Jagr was bringing his world-class skills to the Big Apple. Jagr’s electric playing style would be perfect for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Jagr had 29 points in his first 31 games with the Rangers during the final stretch of the 2003-04 season.
Jagr joined impressive company in 2005. He joined the Triple Gold Club after the Czech Republic won the 2005 World Hockey Championship. To be admitted into the Triple Gold Club, a pro hockey player has to win the Stanley Cup, World Hockey Championship, and the Olympic gold medal. Jagr played with a broken finger throughout the championship.
Jagr won the Olympic gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and he won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins (1991, '92).
Other members of the Triple Gold Club are legends such as Peter Forsberg, Chris Pronger, and Sidney Crosby.
The 2004-05 season was shut down due to a lockout. In the 2005-06 season, Jagr put the team on his back. Jagr scored 123 points (54 goals, 69 assists) and led a talent-depleted Rangers roster to a 44-26-12 record and their first playoff appearance in seven years. Predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league, the Rangers exceeded expectations as Jagr won the Lester B. Pearson award and almost won the Art Ross Trophy but missed it by a hair to San Jose Sharks star Joe Thorton. After single-handedly carrying the Rangers to the playoffs, the Rangers were swept by the nearby New Jersey Devils.
During a matchup against the Washington Capitals, his former team, Jagr scored his 1,500th career point off an assist. He became just the 12th NHL player in history to score this many points. In addition, he nabbed his 15th consecutive season of 30 goals or more, tying Mike Gartner for most all-time.
In Jagr’s final two years in New York, the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs in the Conference semifinals.
Jagr didn’t re-sign with the Rangers after the 2007-08 season. He always had the intention of finishing his career overseas in Eastern Europe. He went overseas and signed with the Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). During his time in the KHL, Jagr earned three All-Star Team appearances (2009-11) and won the Continental Cup in 2011.
Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? Jagr announced he would field contract offers from NHL teams for the 2011-2012 season. Instead of reuniting with the Penguins, the team he spent 11 years with, Jagr signed with the bitter interstate rival Philadelphia Flyers. Jagr became a solid contributor on a team with Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, and rising star Claude Giroux. Although seeing Jagr in a Flyers jersey took some getting used to, the Flyers beat the Penguins in six games in the first round, only to lose to the New Jersey Devils in the second round.
Not done yet, Jagr signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars for the 2012-13 season. At this point in his career, Jagr strictly signed one-year contracts. Jagr only lasted 34 games in Dallas before being traded to the playoff-bound Boston toward the end of the season. Jagr helped a stacked Bruins team make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. The last time he was in the Stanley Cup was 21 years ago, the longest gap between Stanley Cup Finals appearances in NHL history. Despite scoring 10 points in the playoffs, Jagr didn’t re-sign with the Bruins.
At 41 years old, Jagr signed with the New Jersey Devils for the 2013-14 season. He wanted to help the Devils win, signing a team-friendly one-year deal. At this stage of his career, Jagr had transitioned from a white-hot superstar to a serviceable second-line player who was also a great leader for any team. Entering his 20th season in the league, Jaromir had been playing pro hockey for so long that he joked that his favorite player growing up was himself.
At 42 years old, Jagr became the oldest player in NHL history to score a hat-trick against the Philadelphia Flyers, his former team, in January 2015. The ageless wonder kept breaking records and climbing the all-time points scored list with every passing game.
Jagr was traded to the Florida Panthers in the middle of the 2014-15 season. In his first full season with the Panthers (2015-16), Jagr led the team in scoring with 66 points. He also passed Gordie Howie on the all-time points list this year. He led the Panthers to the playoffs, where they suffered a first-round exit against the New York Islanders. It was Jagr’s first time back in the playoffs since the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
In December 2016, Jagr made history when he passed Mark Messier for second all-time on the NHL career points list . With 1,921 career points (766 goals, 1,155 assists), the only player to score more than Jagr is Wayne Gretzky.
In the “last call” stage of his career, Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames. At 46, he logged seven points in 22 games, a career low. It was the ninth NHL team he played for. Jagr was waived in January 2018.
Jagr refuses to retire in the face of father time. In 2018, he signed with his hometown team, the Rytiri Kladno. It was his first time playing for Kladno since he was a teenager. Jagr always wanted to retire in his home country. This was his chance. He bought the team and became a player-owner. He plays in all of their home games and last saw action in 2022 and plans to continue playing.
Over his illustrious career, Jagr has won almost every award a player can. He won the Stanley Cup Finals twice (1991, '92); the Art Ross Trophy five times ('95, '98-2001); the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1999; the Lester B. Pearson award ('99, '00, '06), and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2016. It’s safe to say Jagr ran out of room on his trophy shelf.
Jagr also holds several records, including most career game-winning goals (135), points by a right wing (1,921), most career points by a European player, and most 70-point seasons in a row with 15. He is also the only player to play in the Stanley Cup Finals as a teenager and in his 40s.
While Jagr is best remembered for his NHL career, he also built a great international career. He led the Czech Republic to an Olympic gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He also won gold at the Ice Hockey World Championship twice (2005, '10). He was the greatest European player of all time and was inducted into the Czech Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.
Maybe the single greatest accomplishment of Jagr’s career was his longevity. He played 34 professional seasons if you include his overseas playing days. Through hard work and a dedicated workout routine and diet, he became the epitome of longevity in a sport that leaves most players beaten and broken down by their 30s. He possessed incredible mobility and agility for his size (6-foot-3, 230 pounds). He glided across the ice like a Zamboni.
Jagr played for several different teams over his career. His final stop, however, will be in the Pro Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He's a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn't watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.
Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!