BOSTON -- After participating in his first morning skate with the Boston Bruins, newly acquired forward Jaromir Jagr was all smiles in the locker room. When the local media surrounded his stall, he asked if he could sit down because “I’m too old,” he said with a laugh.
Jagr, of course, is 41. He made his NHL debut in 1990. Tyler Seguin was born in 1992.
The Bruins acquired the future Hall of Famer on Tuesday from the Dallas Stars in exchange for forward Lane MacDermid, unsigned draft pick Cody Payne and a conditional 2013 draft pick. Coach Claude Julien told his players the veteran was not coming here to be the savior, but rather a complementary piece to what’s already a strong roster of players.
But with Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron suddenly out indefinitely with a moderate concussion, the acquisition comes at a perfect time. On Thursday, Julien quickly inserted Jagr on the line with Seguin as center and Brad Marchand.
Jagr said Thursday that he’s happy to fill whatever role is needed in Boston.
“I’m not 25 anymore,” Jagr said. “I don’t think this team really needs it [a savior]. They won the Cup two years ago, and when you look at their top guys they’re still here so they know they can do it. For me, I wish I can somehow help the team to produce better and play better.”
Jagr admitted he was shocked when he was told of the trade, and unlike Jarome Iginla a week ago, who chose Pittsburgh over Boston, Jagr had no choice where he would play.
“Well, obviously I didn’t,” he said. “I didn’t have a no-trade clause, so I guess wherever Dallas got the best opportunity they took it. But I’m happy about it. You don’t ask questions, you just go to play. Through my whole hockey career I would play hockey wherever because it was always good for me, so I have to knock on wood. I know [in Boston] it’s going to be good, maybe not at the start, but at the end it’s going to be great.”
Even at age 41, Jagr believes he can play at a top level, and would like to play for as long as he can.
“I don’t feel bad, but the game has changed so I change,” he said. “I’m not the guy who wants to score the most goals in the league, or score the most points in the league. Don’t get me wrong, I like to score, but there are more important things for me -- the whole picture, the team, and to win as a team. In that way, I’ve changed a lot.”
The Bruins’ roster is loaded with good, young talent, and Jagr believes he’s at the stage of his career where he can help younger players both on and off the ice. He served that role for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, and now he’ll have a chance to help in Boston.
"I kind of like it. I don’t mind it at all,” Jagr said. “I learned a lot of stuff through my hockey career. I’ve played for 23 professional, and I’ve played with so many great players and I’ve learned so much stuff. No matter how old you are, you can always learn. If somebody thinks he knows everything when he’s 25, he’s lying to himself or he’s dumb. You can always learn and I’m here to teach the guys and tell them what I had to go through, and make their hockey life easier.”
When Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli officially announced the transaction, he likened it to the deal that brought Mark Recchi to Boston during the 2008-2009 season. Recchi was 40 at the time and stayed another two seasons and helped the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011. Recchi now serves as an advisor to the Stars’ hockey operations staff.
When asked if Recchi spoke with him about playing in Boston, Jagr said: “He didn’t say much, and I actually didn’t listen much because I was kind of shocked. They told me I got traded. I said, ‘OK’ and I had to start thinking how I was going to do it easiest for me and get here as quick as I can.”
For the majority of his career in the NHL, Jagr had a reputation as a player that could be a difficult teammate. That image has changed the last few years and he believes he’ll fit right in with his new teammates in Boston.
"I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” he said.
Jagr played with Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference in Pittsburgh, and he’s close with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Also, Jagr was the boyhood hockey idol for David Krejci. So, it should be a good fit for the Bruins.
"Z, we’re neighbors. Czechs, Slovaks, we love each other. And I had to face him for the last 15 years, and every time I was on the ice, he was on the ice, so I’m very happy I’m on his side right now,” Jagr said.
After the Bruins lost to the Flyers in an historic collapse during the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, Recchi thought about retiring. Instead, he returned for one more season and then retired as a three-time Stanley Cup champion following the 2011 season. Jagr could be more than a rental player for Boston, and Chiarelli admitted as much, but only time will tell. If he’s not playing in Boston, Jagr will be playing the game of hockey somewhere.
“I love to play for the love,” he said. “If I feel healthy and feel like I can play on a good level, I want to keep playing. I’m not going to say ‘I’m retiring’ because I love the game too much. If I’m not good for the NHL, I’ll go and play in the Czech league, but I still love the game. Like everybody else, if you love something, you just don’t want to let it go.”