By Pat Hauldren
Jaromir Jagr scored against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night to give the Stars a much needed win in a dreaded fourth period of hockey. Jagr’s high wrist shot sneaked past Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk 1:46 into overtime. Dallas’ win made the Oilers (4-3-3) winless in their last four games.
But everyone was talking up Jamie Benn returning to the lineup, signing his $5 million deal, putting pucks in the net, being hailed as the next Mike Modano. Benn did put pucks in the net and each game, he’s getting better, getting his ice legs back. Wednesday, he and Derek Roy scored in regulation.
But Jagr won the game, and that’s what people are talking about.
He’s quite the player. It’s a privilege playing with him,” Benn said of Jagr. “We had an all right game tonight. We need to get better. We turned too many pucks over. We were lucky to get that win.”
Benn tried to score in overtime, shooting from the high slot, but Devean Dubnyk stopped that and the rebound went to the right boards, where Jagr said “this puck is mine,” skated to the inside right circle and sliced it past the Oiler goalie to the short side.
“I don’t really remember what happened,” Jagr joked of his game-winner. “It was very quick. It was too quick for my speed. I had a little space one-and- one and I tried to beat the guy one-on-one and I shot it right away.”
That short side wrister wasn’t just a win for Dallas; that goal gave Jagr his 668th in his career, tying him with Luc Robitaille for 10th place in NHL history.
“Bennie shot it wide and I had a little space one-on-one and tried to beat the guy and shoot it right away,” said Jagr. “I have to get used to the NHL rinks again after playing over there (the Kladno Czech team – which he owns – for which he played during the lockout). The European ice is so big. Here it’s totally different. You have to shoot right away.”
Even though Dallas only signed Jagr for a one-year, $4.5 million deal in 2012, his year with Dallas has been quite productive so far, sans injuries of course. The mating of Jagr and the Stars is a good deal for both the player and the team. Having the most productive European-born player in the NHL, considered one of the best players of all time, doesn’t hurt Dallas’ reputation nor, more importantly, their scoring capability.
Jagr is no slouch. In fact, the Edmonton Journal calls Jagr “the overtime king,” but Jagr doesn’t only win in overtime.
Jagr played at the highest level of competition in Czechoslovakia for HC Kladno (where his father, also Jaromir Jagr, serves as President) when he was 16 so It’s no surprise that two years later, Jagr was the fifth overall selection in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. Since then Jagr is now one of two Czech players in the “Triple Gold Club,” a small group of players who have won the Stanley Cup (1991, 1992) the Ice Hockey World Championships (2005, 2010), and the Olympic gold medal in ice hockey (1998).
A decorated legend
He has won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading point scorer five times (four times in a row) and two times was a finalist, received the Lester B. Pearson Award as voted by the NHL Players’ Association three times, and won a Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player (five times was a finalist — he usually lacked a few points or he had more games played than a winner.) He has been named to seven NHL First All-Star Teams.
Number 68 has worn that number his entire career in honor of the Prague Spring rebellion in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and for his grandfather, who was jailed by Soviet forces invading Czechoslovakia that year for refusing to work on his farm from free. He died in prison that same year.
The Dallas Stars needed someone like Jagr to not just win games but fill the stadium, counting on his name recognition to bring fans back to the AAC. In 2003, Dallas was the highest-revenue market in the NHL and in 2008, a Top-10 market. But then there was bankruptcy and then league control and nothing much good happened for the Stars until they got a new owner, Tom Gaglardi, a man who knows hockey about as well as hotels. Finally, the Stars are back on track.
So the Stars signed Jagr. Opening night, the building was filled to capacity with ticket-holders. Jagr jerseys flew off the wall, selling topped at 75 Jagr jerseys, more than any other player. That’s a good start to a short season.
“Don’t think we don’t think about marketing all the time, and it doesn’t hurt to have great veteran players on your team,” said Stars team president Jim Lites. “It’s hard not to fall in love with Jagr.”
“I think the fans gonna come when the team’s gonna win,” Jagr said. “They’re gonna come first game. They’re gonna come second game. If they see you work hard and you’re winning and you’re attractive – you play attractive hockey – they’re gonna come. That’s what they’re waiting for. Of course, some of them, they’re mad. I don’t blame them. But it’s up to us how we’re gonna play to make them come to the rink.”
Tonight, the Stars (5-5-1) face the Anaheim Ducks at home wrapping up a three-game road strip. After tonight’s game, the Stars hit the road again for another three-game trip with another back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday with the Oilers again and the Flames.
Stars vs Ducks tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Fox SW and on KTCK 1310 AM radio.