Jagr keep his eyes on the prize
Philadelphia's Jaromir Jagr, left, battles Sidney Crosby for a loose puck in Wednesday's series opener.
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He's 40 now, and every year -- sometimes, every day -- brings a different version of Jaromir Jagr's relationship with the Penguins, his original team.
For the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night, the right winger had a couple of scoring chances but no points in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 1 of the teams' first-round playoff series.
It took only a matter of seconds for the unforgiving fans at Consol Energy Center to boo Jagr as he handled the puck near the right corner on the first shift of the game.
If you listen to what he had to say before the game, he didn't hear them.
"I don't pay any attention to that," Jagr said. "Even the boos, you don't hear it. You kind of get used to it, I guess. Early in the game, and you've got the puck, the fans think you're going to hear it. You don't hear it.
"It's tough to describe, but it's like your wife talking to you and you don't hear. She's complaining. Why are you going to listen to her? You're somewhere else. That's what it is. Your mind is somewhere else."
Jagr, acknowledging that what he said wasn't politically correct, flashed the boyish smile that was one of his off-ice trademarks when he played for the Penguins.
He won two Stanlely Cups, five NHL scoring titles and a league MVP award while with the Penguins and got most of the 1,653 points that have him ranked eighth all time. These days, he's concentrating on helping the Flyers win that Cup.
"I think our group is very tight," Jagr said. "I don't think I've been on a team where there were no arguments, no fighting over the year. That's probably the first time it happened to me. This group is so tight, the chemistry is so good, a lot of great guys around the team. That kind of stuff gives me confidence."
Jagr's best scoring chance in Game 1 came with his team trailing, 2-0, about midway through the first period. He had a breakaway from the blue line in, but Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury deflected Jagr's shot outside the left post.
In the third period, he got an extra loud round of jeers when he got an interference penalty drawn by Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
Last summer, after three seasons playing in Russia, Jagr didn't respond to a Penguins contract offer of $2 million for this season and instead signed with the Flyers for $3.3 million.
Whether he returns to Philadelphia next season or goes back to Europe, Jagr vows to keep lacing up the skates.
"I'm going to play if something bad doesn't happen to me in the summer because I love the game," he said.
It probably won't be in Pittsburgh, even though Jagr once again professed his affection for the town that now boos him.
"It's been 20 years, but I have such great memories about teammates," he said of the Cup years. "We won together. Those guys showed me around. They showed me the life off the ice. They taught me on the ice. You have to appreciate it."
It has been 11 years since he played for the Penguins, and he doesn't get overly emotional facing them anymore.
"It's the same city, but different players," Jagr said.
Jagr also has changed over the years, but his comments -- when he is in the mood to laugh and chat -- often are still entertaining. Such as his thoughts on working out.
"Hard work makes me happy," said Jagr, who sometimes goes to the Flyers practice facility late at night to skate.
"I think that's the best thing that happened to me in my life. If I go to the gym and I do some things, I'm happy after that. Some people are happy if they have a day off. I'm the opposite way. I don't know why. I'm just doing that to be happy.
"Strange stuff, but that's how I would describe it. If I do something hard, something for my body, I'm happy."
First Published April 12, 2012 12:00 am