CALGARY — The possibility of a hockey idol walking through their dressing room door had the youngest Calgary Flames shaking their heads in amazement Monday.
A Sportsnet report that 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr, the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer behind Wayne Gretzky, picked Calgary to be his first Canadian franchise in his 24 seasons was something they had to get their heads around.
The Flames and coach Glen Gulutzan prefaced their comments Monday morning with "if he comes here" as the team was mum for much of the day on Jagr. His agent did not reply to an email from The Canadian Press.
The scope of Jagr’s career was particularly epic for 19-year-old forward Matthew Tkachuk, because his father Keith was drafted in the first round with Jagr in 1990.
"It’s crazy to think about," Tkachuk said. "My dad’s been retired for however many years now.
"For me personally, I’m going to try and get as much as I can out of having him on the team. We’ve all heard the stories what a legend he is and I’m excited to see it first-hand."
Gulutzan, who coached Jagr for part of a season in 2012-13 when they were both with the Dallas Stars, confirmed Jagr phoned him Sunday.
"We just chatted. Obviously he’s talked to a few teams," Gulutzan said. "Everybody knows I had Jaromir in Dallas, so he felt he could call me and just chat."
Ten Flames were not even born in 1991 when Jagr won the first of his back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I wasn’t even a thought and he was playing in the NHL," said 21-year-old Sam Bennett. "It’s pretty incredible."
Winner of five Art Ross trophies as the NHL’s top scorer, Jagr’s most productive years may be behind him, but he can still put up numbers.
The six-foot-three, 213-pound winger from Kladno, Czech Republic, is coming off a 46-point season (16 goals, 30 assists) with Florida and had 66 points (27 goals, 39 assists) with the Panthers in 2015-16.
The reported US$1 million, plus bonuses, the Flames gave him on a one-year contract would be money well spent if he maintains that level of productivity.
Calgary opens the regular season on the road Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers before their home-opener Saturday versus Winnipeg.
The late addition of a future Hall of Famer would inject more buzz into a team expected to contend for a playoff spot.
Calgary went 45-33-4 to claim a wild-card playoff berth last season, but were swiftly eliminated in four straight losses to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
Jagr’s 1,914 points (765 goals, 1,149 assists) is second only to Wayne Gretzky in NHL history and he isn’t yet done.
The Penguins drafted Jagr fifth overall in 1990, when Matthew Tkachuk’s father went 19th overall to the Winnipeg Jets.
Jagr has played 1,711 NHL games with Pittsburgh, Washington, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey and Florida.
He’s just 57 games from surpassing Gordie Howe for the most NHL games ever played (1,767).
"You look at his age and just what he can do, he’s physically a specimen, but his hockey IQ is just off the charts and that’s what allows him to be behind Wayne Gretzky in scoring," Gulutzan said.
How his big personality would fit into a team that’s been striving for stable chemistry wasn’t a concern for Gulutzan.
"When I had him in Dallas, he was fantastic for our group," Gulutzan said.
October 2, 2017