Penguins under fire when it comes to Jagr announcement
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Penguins under fire when it comes to Jagr announcement

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The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Friday that on February 18 against the visiting Los Angeles Kings, they will be officially retiring Jaromir Jagr’s number 68, raising it to the rafters as part of a pre-game celebration at PPG Paints Arena.
Pretty much everyone’s reaction: about damn time!

It even prompted Josh Yohe and Rob Rossi of the Athletic to try and explain why it took so long for the Penguins to retire Jagr’s No. 68 jersey, he who helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in each of his first two seasons in Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992, respectively.

Over the span of 24 NHL seasons, split between nine different teams, Jagr recorded 766 goals, which ranks fourth all-time, and 1921 points — placing him behind Wayne Gretzky for the most points in NHL history. The icon was drafted by the Penguins fifth overall in 1990 and spent his first 11 seasons in Pittsburgh. In addition to the pair of Stanley Cup titles, Jagr racked up 439 goals and 1,079 points with the Penguins.

But Jagr was traded to the Washington Capitals in 2001 because of the Penguins’ financial problems. He went on to play with eight other NHL teams. He nearly returned to the Penguins in 2011 before he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, who offered him more money. This consequently created animosity between Jagr and the Pittsburgh fan base for a short time.

His former teammate and owner Mario Lemieux even informed friends he was upset Jagr didn’t re-sign with the Penguins, but always maintained that Jagr’s No. 68 would be the next number retired by the Pens.

What Yohe and Rossi reveal is that Pittsburgh attempted to make this ceremony happen more than once in the past.

“The Penguins have been attempting to coordinate with Jagr to make this moment happen for many years.”

On top of that, Jagr was away in Europe, which made things harder for the Penguins.

“The Penguins always wanted to retire Jagr’s number, but his continued playing overseas made it difficult from a logistical standpoint. An early 2020s trip to Kladno by former Jagr teammate, Phil Bourque, a longtime Penguins broadcaster, helped move things forward.”

There is no doubt that Jagr is one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He last played in the NHL during the 2017-18 season with the Calgary Flames at the age of 45, making him the third oldest NHL player in league history.

The ageless wonder will be celebrated in Pittsburgh and fans cannot wait. Because, yeah, it's ABOUT DAMN TIME. 

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