The old man still has it.
Three years removed from his last NHL game, Jaromir Jagr returned to the ice in style Sunday by scoring two goals and four points in an 8-4 victory for Rytri Kladno, the team Jagr owns. It came after Jagr – who is nearly 48, for crying out loud – missed five weeks due to injuries to both of his thighs back in November, and who would have expected anything less from the hockey superhuman?
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Jagr’s performance wasn’t the four points he recorded, but that it marked his first game of the 2020s, which is now his fifth decade of pro hockey dating back to Czech League action in 1988. Only one other player has managed that in the past: Gordie Howe, who skated in NHL games in five different decades and played pro in six after dressing for the IHL’s Detroit Vipers in 1997 at the age of 69.
Through 22 games, Jagr, a surefire Hockey Hall of Famer when he finally calls it quits in another 25 years, sits second in scoring for Kladno with 10 goals and 19 points. Defenseman Brady Austin leads the team with 25 points, but it’s crazy to think Jagr already had three NHL seasons under his belt when Austin was born. Heck, Jagr had two Stanley Cups and nine individual awards before the two 2000-born players that have suited up for Klando this season were alive.
Jagr’s hockey career is the gift that keeps on giving. But while he holds the NHL mark as the fourth-oldest player to appear in an NHL game behind Howe (52 years, 11 days), Chris Chelios (48 years, 71 days) and Maurice Roberts (45 years, 345 days), he’s far from the only player that found success at an advanced age. Here’s a look at five others who had standout accomplishments well into their 40s:
Gordie Howe – Oldest NHL player ever (51)
No list of greybeards is complete without mentioning Howe, who played at least one NHL game in five different decades from the 1940s until the 1980s and never seemed to lose his edge. He started off slow in 1946-47 with just 22 points in 58 games, but he went on to win the league scoring race six times between 1951 and 1963 and played in the All-Star Game a whopping 21 times – his first was in 1948 and last was in 1980. What’s crazy is that Howe retired at 42 in 1971, but came back three seasons later to score 31 goals and 100 points with WHA Hartford alongside sons Mark and Marty. Howe wasn’t nicknamed ‘Mr. Hockey’ for nothing. He truly was one of the greatest to play the game, and there will be nobody like him ever again.
Teemu Selanne – Most points in a single season (80 in 2010-11)
How cool would it have been to see Selanne and Jagr battling it out in their late 40s somewhere in Europe? Even though his final few seasons came with limited success, Selanne entered the previous decade strong with 31 goals and 80 points, trailing Corey Perry (98) for the Anaheim Ducks’ scoring lead. At a time when the youth movement was in full effect, Selanne proved he could still hang with the NHL’s top players. Selanne holds the single-game record for most points by a player over 40, registering five on March 28, 2011, to cap off his best offensive output since his 94-point season in 2006-07. His 31 goals that season were the most for a player of his vintage, too. Howe may have the record for the most points by a 40-year-old all-time, but Selanne did it in one of the most competitive periods in NHL history and deserves recognition for being so good so late.
Gary Roberts – Most penalty minutes in a season (97 in 2006-07)
These days, he only punishes athletes with a challenging workout, but Roberts was one feisty opponent. In 2006-07, a season he split between Florida and Pittsburgh, Roberts tallied 97 penalty minutes, good for 55th in the NHL at a time when Ben Eager and Josh Gratton were bullying the rest of the league. It’s still remarkable how engaged physically Roberts was at 40 years old. Roberts was traded to the Penguins for the team’s playoff run in 2006-07, bringing leadership, strong work ethic and physicality to the team’s middle six. The Penguins made the playoffs for the first time in six years and Roberts quickly became a fan favorite en route to the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2007-08. Roberts retired after spending the 2008-09 season with the Tampa Bay Lighting.
Nicklas Lidstrom – Oldest player to win a major NHL award (41 years, one month, 24 days)
Given the fact few players in their 40s play important roles in the NHL, it’s incredible Lidstrom had what it took to win the Norris Trophy at 41. Lidstrom was the cream of the crop during his career, finishing sixth all-time in scoring by a defenseman with 1,142 points in 1,564 games, but nobody could have predicted his 62-point output in 2010-12. He hadn’t reached the 60-point plateau in the two campaigns prior, but Lidstrom was far and away the best rearguard in 2010-11. He retired one season later. Two goaltenders took home major awards in their 40s, as Johnny Bower (40 years, five months, five days) and Jacques Plante (40 years, three months and 18 days) won Vezina Trophies late in their careers, but neither were older than Lidstrom.
Dwayne Roloson – Most saves in a regular-season victory (58 on Nov. 23, 2009)
It’s unbelievable how good Roloson was during the latter half of his career. Most of his work was spent trying to salvage the seasons of mediocre franchises, most notably his effort to earn the Oilers a berth in the Stanley Cup final in 2006 after Edmonton snuck in as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. But in 2009, Roloson set the modern-day record for saves in a single game when he stopped 58 shots in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the best performances of any goalie in a regular-season game over the past 20 years. It should also be noted that not since Roloson played a post-season game at 42 has a netminder beyond age 40 suited up in a playoff contest.
(All age information via Hockey Reference.)
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