Legend Jágr returns to ice 32 years after top level debut

Jaromír Jágr, photo: ČTK/PR/Rytíři Kladno/Roman Mareš

Hockey legend Jaromír Jágr returned to the ice on Wednesday evening in his first game for Kladno in the best part of a year. Remarkably Jágr is now nearly 49 years old and played his first top level game more than 32 years ago.

Jaromír Jágr is one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time. He notched up the second highest points tally and third highest goals record in the history of the NHL, where he took part in no fewer than 1,733 games.

Jaromír Jágr,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů

Now, less than two months before his 49th birthday, Jágr has appeared on the ice once again for Kladno. Hard as it may be to believe, this is the legendary number 68’s 33rd season as a professional.

Kladno is where it all began in the late 1980s for Jágr, who now owns the hometown club with which he experienced relegation to Czech hockey’s second tier at the end of last season.

He had been planning to gradually return to the competitive action in the New Year – but in the end the right wing had to get ready in a hurry.

Jaromír Jágr,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů

“The whole thing was very sudden. We didn’t have anybody to put on. It was a panic on Tuesday – I couldn’t even find my game stick, gloves and skates. The plan was that I would start to play from January 6. Even the other players didn’t know I’d be coming on. It was really mainly about filling a hole in the team.”

Kladno have been left short of players due to a combination of injuries and junior international camps and only have 11 forwards available at present.

Jágr first’s match in nearly 300 days could be qualified as a success. He spent a total of 14 minutes on the ice and provided one assist as the Kladno Knights beat Dukla Jihlava 7:5.

However, the all-time legend wasn’t so pleased with his own performance, telling reporters afterward that the hockey he played in the first period had been the worst of his career.

He also discussed a robust clash with an opposing player.

Jaromír Jágr  (2013),  photo: Kristýna Maková

“I’m nearly 50 years old and I haven’t been playing. I weigh 120 kilos – 130 kilos with my gear – so I couldn’t stop. I just go. It’s not that I wanted to hit somebody, I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to do it – the poor guy just got in my way [laughs].”

As well as his glittering career in the NHL, where he twice lifted the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburg Penguins, Jaromír Jágr has also played in the German and Italian leagues, the KHL and of course the Czechoslovak/Czech league.

The 48-year-old also has an Olympic gold medal from 1998 and helped his native country win two World Championship titles.