As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated. And while that may be true, Jaromir Jagr’s battle against age is going well into overtime.
On Monday, one year and one day since Jagr last suited up in a professional contest and three days after his 47th birthday, the living legend hit the ice for his 30th professional campaign. After signing on for another season with his hometown Rytiri Kladno last May — likely an easy deal to hammer out given Jagr’s part-ownership of the franchise — Jagr took the ice for the first time in the 2018-19 season and skated on the team’s top line alongside fellow hometown boy and former NHLer Tomas Plekanec and Antonín Melka.
Jagr’s time away and subsequently delayed return was due to injuries, which also played a part in his departure from the NHL last season. Remaining relatively healthy throughout his NHL career, particularly late in his career, Jagr missed 24 games due to lower-body ailments during the 2017-18 season, including a groin injury that plagued him through to the end of his brief tenure with the Calgary Flames. In his 22 games with Calgary, the lone Canadian team he played with during his storied career, Jagr managed one goal and seven points before reaching an amicable split with the organization that led to his signing in Kladno late last season.
As for his return to action this season, which came in a 2-0 victory for Kladno over AZ Havířov, Jagr didn’t manage to find the scoresheet, but the ageless wonder logged heavy minutes given it was his first action in more than a year, finishing the game with nearly 18 minutes of ice time.
“Above all, I’m happy that I was finally able to play,” Jagr said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s not easy in my age just to train.”
The assessment from the coaching staff post-game was positive, too, as Klando coach Jindřich Lidický said Jagr looked “very good” given how long it had been since his last game action. “He helped us in the power play,” Lidický said, per the Kladno post-game release. “It was easy to see that the power plays improved with Tomas (Plekanec). The power line played very well, although it did not (score), but the chances we had. Of course we are happy that Jaromir is back.”
With the victory, Jagr and Kladno get one step closer to their goal, which is to return the franchise to the top-flight Czech League after seasons spent as a second-tier outfit. In order to do so, Kladno will need to qualify for the post-season and then win promotion to the Czech Extraliga. Following Monday’s game, Kladno sits fourth in the second-tier competition, 13 points back of league leader HC Dukla Jihlava, three points behind second-place VHK Vsetin and level with Motor České Budějovice with 100 points through 53 games. (The Czech League works on a three-point system.) Last season, Kladno won its way into the qualification round, but finished last out of the four teams vying for promotion.
For Jagr, whose career finally seems as though it’s winding down, helping guide Kladno to the Extraliga might be a fitting way to go out. Then again, would anyone be surprised if Kladno wins promotion and Jagr signs on for another season? He might be 47, but his unending passion for the game seems as though it might see him skate well into his 50s.