Match of hockey legends Czech Republic – Slovakia, which took place on the occasion of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Czech team's victory at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. February 10, 2023, Prague. Jaromír Jágr from the Czech Republic.
Prague – Hockey player Jaromír Jágr is already in the third exhibition match this season. The star striker, who will celebrate his 51st birthday next week, enters them as an active player. In today's duel of legends Czechia – Slovakia, which takes place on the occasion of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the victory of the national team at the Olympic Games in Nagano 1998, he is the only one still playing at the top level.
“What if someone had told me then that in 25 years I would be playing in the extra league? I would have told him that he is the second one to know,” Jágr smiled at a meeting with journalists before the match. “Everything is flying by. During that time, we experienced a lot of beautiful things, there is nothing to complain about,” he said.
The famous Kladno pupil took part in a similar exhibition in Bratislava in September, and played the Kladno exhibition in December. That is also why he does not consider the current meeting with former teammates or rivals to be special. “We saw most of the boys when we played the first match in Slovakia. I see the others during the season, but I will see someone after a long time. I'm looking forward to it,” he said.
Jagr has many successes behind him. He won the Stanley Cup twice, the World Championship twice, became an Olympic champion and won countless individual trophies. “What comes to mind when Nagano is mentioned? That's an interesting question. The whole journey, concerns about not having another failure after the World Cup, because we had a similar team. And a long journey from America,” said Jágr, pointing to the unsuccessful tournament that preceded the Olympic Games in 1996.
But everything was different in Nagano. “Right from the first match, we won against the Finns 3-0. Then we played the Kazakhs, it was a lot about the score, we wanted to beat them more than the Russians to have a better score. If we had drawn with the Russians to go from first place,” Jágr recalled.
This did not succeed and the Czechia advanced to the quarterfinals from second place, but there, even with Jágr's great contribution, the national team defeated the USA 4:1. Subsequently, the Czechs eliminated Canada after raids and Russia in the final 1:0. Jágr's good performance was also helped by the support of Petr Svoboda, who convinced him that he should play like he did in Pittsburgh.
“I had won the NHL scoring before, so everyone expected me to pull the trigger. But it was not necessary , because we had a lot of quality players, and even though I didn't play my top hockey, it was enough for us to be successful. The team was so strong and we had Dominik Hašek,” Jágr praised the performance of the goalkeeper star.
In addition, the bet on players from Europe, chosen by Ivan Hlinka, paid off for the Czech Republic. “It was played on a big pitch and it was well-mixed. It was a shock to some and I don't know if he would have got away with it now, when social media is so powerful. He would have been badly criticized. But in those days, only faxes were sent.” smiled Jagr.
“Looking back, he made the best decision he ever made. He took two lines from Europe that dominated here. Brilliant thing. NHL players went there without training! That's it can't be done. You need at least a week, and before that week passed, the Americans and Canadians went home and they had a great team,” he noted.
The most productive European in the history of the NHL was pleased that the entire 02 arena was practically filled for today's exhibition. “From my point of view, it's not even a sporting experience, because any match in the extra league will give you a better experience than the legends here. I was surprised that it was full, but I'm happy for it. The fans come to appreciate us, pay tribute, that they respect us , it's respect for hockey players from the golden generation. That they respect us, that they come to watch. Karel Gott probably didn't have the best voice in the 80s either, and he would have sold it out,” said Jágr.
Jágr made history again on Sunday when Třinci scored the 1099th goal of his career and surpassed the best scorer Wayne Gretzky in the MfDnes scoring statistics. “It's an unofficial stat. It might be a record, it's really hard to calculate because you're comparing different competitions, which is unfair. The levels are not the same. There's a different number of games in the competitions. It's unfair to anybody. Every era has had players who they were good and that should be the end of it,” noted Jágr.
The Klagenfurt native hasn't talked about the end of his career for many years, but he indicated that he would like to say goodbye during the Pittsburgh game in Prague. “I was told Pittsburgh wanted to hang up my jersey and I said I'm not done yet, which is true. I don't even know when I'm going to be done. But I thought it was interesting when teams go to Europe that they might as well kill two birds with one stone blow. It was nowhere for a European to say goodbye in Europe. I thought it was interesting, so I brought it up. But a lot of circumstances would have to come together,” he explained.