Jaromir Jagr played his first regular-season NHL game on Oct. 5, 1990. Most current members of the Calgary Flames weren’t even alive then, while others were either in diapers or attending elementary school.
The future Hall of Famer agreed to a one-year deal with Calgary on Monday, injecting both skill and veteran savvy into what was already shaping up to be a promising Flames roster.
Suffice it to say, members of the Flames were thrilled when they heard the news.
“You’re bringing in a guy who’s been one of the best players in the league for a long time and he’s still really effective, still really hard to play against,” Flames captain Mark Giordano told reporters in Calgary. “He protects the puck so well and makes so many good plays down low.”
Winger Michael Frolik has some experience playing on the same team as Jagr. The two have represented the Czech Republic together at various international tournaments over the years.
“He’s very big in Czech. Anywhere he walks or goes everybody knows him,” Frolik said. “He’s like a god to Czechs. I think if he runs for President people would vote for him.”
Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan knows first hand what Jagr can bring to the table. Gulutzan was the head coach for the Stars during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when Jagr called Dallas home.
“I think the biggest thing is you look at his age and just what he can do,” Gulutzan said. “He’s physically a specimen but his hockey IQ is off the charts and that’s what allows him to be behind Wayne Gretzky [for No. 2 all-time] in scoring. It’s hard to explain some of the things he does. There’s some ‘wow’ moments in watching him play.”
This isn’t the first time Flames general manager Brad Treliving has bolstered his team’s roster at the 11th hour. One year ago Kris Versteeg was inked to a contract on the eve of the regular season.
“Having a guy like Jaromir come in at this time of the season shows that we want to have the pieces in place to try to win and we don’t want to wait and we’re excited about the challenge ahead,” Versteeg said. “They obviously gave us the pieces and now it’s about going out there with the product we have and trying to make it happen. It’s really up to us now.”
Jagr, 45, was selected fifth overall in the 1990 NHL Draft, 14 spots ahead of a young American forward from Malden Catholic High School named Keith Tkachuk—the father of Jagr’s new teammate (and potential linemate) Matthew Tkachuk.
“To kind of put it in perspective, he came into the league and I was five years away from even being a thought,” the young Tkachuk said. “It’s crazy to think about. He was winning MVPs before I was born, winning Cups before I was born.”