Cartoon sketch of Jaromir Jagr with 80s mullet.
Cartoon sketch of Jaromir Jagr with 80s mullet. Image: Open AI.

It was with great nostalgia that the Pittsburgh Penguins retired Jaromir Jagr's number today at the Consol Energy Center. The event marks an important moment in the history of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as Jagr was one of their most iconic and beloved players. He played for the team from 1990 to 2001 and helped lead them to two Stanley Cup championships.

Oh, what a time the nineties were in Pittsburgh! The city was bigger than life, with the Penguins ruling the roost in 1991 when they snatched the Stanley Cup for the first time. As noted by Josh Yohe in the Atlantic, the team was teeming with future Hall of Famers, but one player that stands out in the colorful tapestry was the rockstar, Jaromir Jagr.

Ah, Jagr! His fabulous mullet set the city's fashion on fire and made him a beloved figure. He was like an exotic character from ‘Thor’, as Paul Steigerwald, a longtime Penguins broadcaster, fondly recalls. His appeal was not just his phenomenal game; it was his entire persona that made Pittsburgh swoon over him.

Jagr, a boy from a Communist land, turned American by embracing everything quintessentially nineties, including binge-watching popular sitcoms like "Married…With Children" and "Saved by the Bell". His excitement to see Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack Morris in “Saved by the Bell”, at a celebrity hockey game, was one for the ages. He was their teen idol, with both boys and girls trying to emulate him in ways more than one.

The Jagr mania knew no bounds. When it became known that Jagr had a liking for Kit Kat bars, fans started sending thousands of them to Civic Arena. The frenzy got so out of hand that Mike Lange, the voice of the Penguins, had to announce during a game that people had to stop sending Kit Kat bars. Jagr was also famous for his disregard for speed limits, landing multiple speeding tickets and even losing his license for a while during the 1992 postseason.

As Jagr’s stardom grew, so did the city's love for him. His innocence and childlike persona only added to his charm. He was the prince to Mario Lemieux's king, a class clown who was also the smartest in the class. Jagr's impact on the city's culture is undeniable, his embrace of the American life, and the city's heart, is unparalleled. Thanks to Josh Yohe on The Atlantic for this delightful trip down memory lane.

Jagr By The Numbers

  • Second all-time in NHL points: Jagr amassed an awe-inspiring 1,921 points throughout his career.
  • Third in goals scored: With 766 goals, he trails only behind the legendary Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe.
  • All-time leader in game-winning goals: Jagr clinched 135 game-winners, setting a record that underscores his clutch performance in critical moments.
  • Most points by a European-born player: He holds the record for the highest number of points by any European in the NHL.
  • Five-time Art Ross Trophy winner: These trophies, awarded for leading the league in points during the regular season, are emblematic of his consistent superiority on the ice.
  • 1999 Hart Memorial Trophy: Jagr was recognized as the most valuable player to his team during the 1998–1999 NHL season.
  • Seven-time NHL First All-Star Team member: This acknowledges his being one of the top players in the league at his position.
  • Remarkable longevity: Spanning an impressive NHL career over 24 seasons, Jagr's tenure in the league is a testament to his lasting excellence and durability.

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