Passes Mark Messier for No. 2 in NHL scoring on fluke assist, in Panthers loss
SUNRISE, Fla. — The stick leaned against the wall next to his locker, as if it were made of wood instead of gold. Jaromir Jagr stood in full uniform except for his skates while reporters crowded around him. The room was silent. He sighed.
No, this was not how he had dreamed it would happen. He did not dance around a defender and shoot the puck top shelf. He did not set up a teammate with a savvy pass. The Florida Panthers did not defeat the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
Instead, Jagr camped in front of the net as a shot came from the point, and the puck hit him in the backside. The puck bounced into the right circle, and Aleksander Barkov scored on the rebound. The officials had to review the video to make sure he deserved an assist.
That was how he moved past Mark Messier into second place on the NHL all-time scoring list. That was how he got his 1,888th point.
And when the Panthers stopped the game to give him that gold stick and interview him for the crowd, they were trailing by one with 6:40 left in the third period against an Atlantic Division rival in a game that could have a big impact on whether they make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He seemed uncomfortable, eager to get back to the action.
And then they ended up losing 3-1, and he seemed disappointed.
“You know me,” Jagr said. “If the game doesn’t go the right way, I cannot just put it behind me. I always feel responsibility the way the team plays. It’s not easy for me to talk about the game or about what I achieved today. Obviously, I wish I had no point and we win the hockey game and I save it for the next game, but obviously this is what happened.”
But this reinforced what the number meant and what Jagr is all about. This point was a product of the grind, a reward for the unglamorous part of a golden career.
Reaching 1,888 points — more than any other player in almost 100 years of NHL history except Wayne Gretzky, whose 2,857 points might never be matched — takes incredible talent. But that’s not enough. It takes longevity.
Playing until age 44 takes health. But that’s not enough. It takes work. It takes love.
You’re going to get some pretty ones and ugly ones along the way. Not everything is going to go the way you dreamed it would. Yet you keep going and going and going not because you want to reach some numerical mark, but because there is nothing else you would rather do.
“I always believe everything is in your head,” Jagr said. “Whatever you wish for, you can accomplish anything as long as you work and you love it. I still love the game. Thanks to the Florida Panthers. They give me the opportunity to play here. But I love the game, and I’m willing to do anything to play as long as I can.”
Jagr is philosophical about 1,888 points and being second all-time in NHL scoring. Maybe he could have had more points, and not just because he left the League for three seasons to play in the Kontinental Hockey League and went through three lockouts.
Asked how he would feel in 10 or 15 years, he said: “It’s going to be kind of mixed feeling. I’m the guy that always wants to get better, no matter what. You could say I could do a lot better.”
Asked if he could imagine at 18 that he would be standing here at 44 having done this, he said: “Well, I thought I was gonna be standing here at 35. When I was 18, I thought I was going to be the best in the world for 20 years.”
But he also said he had been lucky with injuries, turning around to find some wood to knock on, and he talked about how the Pittsburgh Penguins had selected him No. 5 in the 1990 NHL Draft. He played with Mario Lemieux, Bryan Trottier, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey.
“You think you know everything, but obviously you know nothing, so you have a chance to learn from the best,” Jagr said. “I had so many great players who showed me the way, how you have to work to be successful in the NHL.”
Now he’s showing others the way, from the way he trains to the way he plays to the way he reacts in situations like this. The teammate who shot the puck that hit him, leading to the assist, was defenseman Michael Matheson. Matheson is 22. Barkov? He’s 21. Jagr was well into his NHL career when each was born.
And he’s not done yet. This was not the destination, and it’s about the journey anyway.
“I always compare to the regular life,” Jagr said. “Some people die at 60; some people die at 100. So it doesn’t mean you hit 70, you don’t want to live anymore. It’s kind of the same thing with hockey players. Some are more lucky than the other guys. Some can play till 40. Some, they’re not good at 30. If I got the gift from God, if I have the opportunity to do it, I want to play as long as I can.”