Jaromir Jagr said he does not plan to retire after completing his 33rd professional hockey season on Thursday, even though the 49-year-old forward said his skills have declined.
“… I believe I still have it in me,” Jagr said. “It is all just about working hard and putting more effort. I have to practice harder and avoid gaining weight. You know, I was used to scoring a goal when I wanted to score one. I have been working hard since I was very young to be able to do it. And suddenly I feel it is not possible anymore.”
Jagr, who last played in the NHL for the Calgary Flames in the 2017-18 season, had an assist for Rytiri Kladno, the team he also owns, in a 5-2 win against Dukla Jihlava in Game 7 of the Chance Liga final. Kladno won the second-tier league and will be promoted to Czech Extraliga, the top Czech league, next season.
“The main reason I am still playing is my responsibility to the club,” Jagr said. “If I did not have any, I would not be flying around on the ice here. Because I am embarrassing myself there, I can say.”
Jagr scored 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 19 regular-season games with Kladno this season and 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 16 playoff games.
“I expect much more from myself and I don’t have it,” he said. “But I am aware that when I leave, many (business) partners will leave the team, too. That’s why I have no choice.”
Jagr had previously said he planned to play for Kladno next season, promising to participate in the series of outdoor games at Spindleruv mlyn in the Czech Republic, which were postponed from December 2020 to December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I cannot quit. We have an (outdoor game) sold out,” Jagr said. “But honestly, I know I have to be much better. I want to get better to help my team. … What I know for sure is that I will do anything possible to help my club.”
Jagr made his professional debut for Kladno in the Czech league in 1988-89 and played 24 NHL seasons, starting with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91. He also played in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The No. 5 pick in the 1990 NHL Draft, Jagr is first in NHL history in game-winning goals (135), second in points (1,921), third in goals (766), fourth in games (1,733) and fifth in assists (1,155) and points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (201).
He won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins (1991, 1992) and the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP in 1998-99. He led the NHL in scoring five times (1994-95, 1997-2001) and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team seven times (1994-96, 1997-2001, 2005-06).