Saying Farewell to Jaromir Jagr, a Hockey Legend

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 16: Jaromir Jagr
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 16: Jaromir Jagr /

The Colorado Avalanche never signed legend Jaromir Jagr, even though I once became infamous for suggesting they do just that.

Jaromir Jagr never played for the Colorado Avalanche, and that is something I will always be sad about.

You all know about my utter dedication to Patrick Roy. (If not, let me show you to my Cult of Roy manifesto.) However, it was a Czech phenom with flowing curls and a wrister for days who actually got me into hockey.

I became a hockey fan in 1993, before Colorado had a team. The shiniest thing around back then was the two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. And though you could go on and on about Mario Lemieux, it was a flashy right wing with little English who caught my attention — Jaromir Jagr.

Jaromir Jagr started my hockey fandom journey. Because of Jagr, I fell in love with hockey, which led me to my love of the Colorado Avalanche. My hero, Patrick Roy, could stymie Jagr, but the latter could also score on my hero.

Jagr was never an Avalanche, so I never followed him as closely as I followed my team. Yeah, I’ve probably watched Nathan MacKinnon play more games — and I’ve certainly watched more Matt Duchene games. But without Jagr, I don’t know who those guys are.

Without Jagr, I don’t know who Patrick Roy is. Without Jaromir, I maybe don’t know anything about hockey. That’s heady stuff, considering how big a part the sport is to my life.

Make no mistake, I’m a hardcore Colorado Avalanche fan. I gave up on the Penguins as my favorite team the second the NHL announced Colorado was getting its own team.  But I didn’t give up on Jagr.

My first ever NHL game was on Monday, October 9, 1995 at McNichols Arena. It was not the Avalanche’s home opener. It was their third-ever game, second-ever in McNichols. I paid $45 to sit in section 16, row Q, seat 14. And I walked in wearing my Penguins’ #68 Jagr jersey. The visiting team was Pittsburgh.

I didn’t even own an Avs jersey until December, after Le Trade brought Roy to Colorado.

More from Mile High Sticking

I have been unfortunate. I have only seen Jaromir Jagr play live around 12 times. Or maybe I have been fortunate — I got to see this great player live 12 times. However, I’ve been attending what I thought would be his “last game” in Denver for about five years now. My greatest desire has always been to see him score a goal live. Alas, that never happened.

In 1995, I visited the Czech Republic because of Jaromir Jagr. I visited his home town of Kladno, and it was a bit of a hairy trip (no pun intended). I returned to Czecho in 2001, and I visited Jagr’s Bar, a bar and restaurant that Jagr opened in Prague. There, I bought a Poldi Kladno jersey with Jagr’s signature 68 (and name) on the back.

Prior to 2001, I always wore my Pens jersey with Jagr’s name and number on the back. Since then, it’s been the Poldi Kladno jersey. I will retire it now. I don’t see why I would ever wear it again.

Jaromir Jagr has retired from the NHL. He did not have the glorious end that we may have all wanted.

Not many players are Patrick Roy, able to walk away in their prime. Even Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg retired against their heart’s desire.

However, Jaromir Jagr left his stamp on the NHL just as much as Roy did — and if you’ve read much of my work, you know how significant it is for me to say that.

This season, I did, finally, get to see Jaromir Jagr’s final game in Denver. It was on November 25:

During warmups, I totally creeped the legend:

That’s right, Avs Nation, keeping it creepy since 1993.

Jaromir Jagr was waived by the Calgary Flames yesterday. He cleared waivers. He’s now “on loan” to the Poldi Kladno, the team that gave him his start, and the one that’s he partially owns.

I had a couple of catchy tunes for when Patrick Roy resigned. I don’t have that for Jagr. The time period is too extensive. The fan relationship is too complicated. I have been to Kladno, Czech Republic. I have not been to Quebec, Canada. But I don’t have a Jagr tattoo. Yet.

Jagr left his stamp on the NHL. He never played for the Colorado Avalanche, but he’s the reason I’m an Avalanche fan. I feel sorry for those who didn’t know Jagr in his heyday. Like I did.

Next: An Open Letter About Patrick Roy

Thank you, Jaromir Jagr, for the memories you leave in the NHL. And thank you for making me a hockey fan.