Jagr: Gret­zky ‘was from an­other planet’

Points leader tough to catch

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TIM REYNOLDS

SUN­RISE, FLA. | Jaromir Jagr knows No. 2 is as high as he’ll go on the NHL ca­reer scor­ing list.

In his mind, that’s a record in it­self.

Jagr’s next point will be the 1,888th of his ca­reer and give him out­right pos­ses­sion of sec­ond place on the all-time NHL points list, break­ing a tie with Mark Messier. Only Wayne Gret­zky’s to­tal of 2,857 is bet­ter than that, and Jagr — the 44-year-old Florida Pan­thers for­ward who has said he can see him­self play­ing un­til he’s 50 — knows the top spot is go­ing to stay far from his reach.

“For me, it’s like No. 1,” Jagr said re­cently when asked what pass­ing Messier would mean. “I don’t re­ally count Wayne Gret­zky. He was from an­other planet. I don’t think he was

from this planet. What­ever he did, it’s un­break­able.”

Jagr caught Messier on Tues­day with a three-as­sist ef­fort in Florida’s shootout win over Buf­falo. His next chance for the tiebreaker is Thurs­day, when the Pan­thers play host to the Bos­ton Bru­ins.

Jagr would have been No. 2 long ago if not for his leav­ing the NHL to play in Rus­sia from 2008 through 2011. Jagr col­lected 146 points in those three sea­sons, de­cid­ing to play there in part be­cause of the prox­im­ity to his par­ents in the Czech Republic. But he missed the NHL, re­turned to play with Philadel­phia in 2011-12 — and has been col­lect­ing jer­seys since, also log­ging time with Dal­las, Bos­ton, New Jersey and now Florida since com­ing back to North Amer­ica.

“It’s an honor to be around him, get a lit­tle wis­dom from him, get a few laughs from him,” said Florida’s Nick Bjugstad, who scored the goal that be­came point No. 1,887 for Jagr. “He’s been noth­ing but awe­some for our or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

In­clud­ing play­offs, Tues­day’s three­p­oint game was the 215th of Jagr’s ca­reer.

He’s reached seven points in an NHL game twice, and that’s not even close to his ca­reer best. He played one game in a Ger­man league in 1994-95 dur­ing an NHL work stop­page and racked up 11 points — one goal and 10 as­sists.

His first NHL point was a goal on Oct. 7, 1990, when he was the youngest player in the league at 18. The goalie who gave that one up was Chris Ter­reri, who was just in his sec­ond full NHL sea­son and a rel­a­tively young player at 25.

Ter­reri had a fine, full ca­reer and his last NHL game was 16 years ago. Jagr is still go­ing, with no end in sight.

“The way he comes to work ev­ery sin­gle day is un­be­liev­able,” Pan­thers in­terim coach and gen­eral man­ager Tom Rowe said.

The NHL is made up of two con­fer­ences, six di­vi­sions and 30 are­nas. And to il­lus­trate how long Jagr has been in that league, con­sider that he’s played in four con­fer­ences, 11 di­vi­sions and 57 dif­fer­ent are­nas.

That doesn’t even in­clude four neu­tral-site are­nas, or two base­ball sta­di­ums — Yan­kee Sta­dium in New York, and Cit­i­zens Bank Park in Philadel­phia.

“He’s kind of in­spired us with his pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion,” Messier said.

For Messier, go­ing to No. 3 on the all­time scor­ing list is merely a for­mal­ity. He said the huge num­bers Jagr put up early in his ca­reer de­serve credit on their own, and now he mer­its more of the same credit for stay­ing so fit and com­mit­ted at this point in his life.

“This is kind of an­ti­cli­mac­tic for me in a way,” said Messier, a for­mer team­mate of Jagr with the New York Rangers. “I un­der­stand the amount of time that he put in over­seas when he left the NHL and came back and the amount of points he amassed over there and where he would be if he would have stayed (here). So I guess in my own mind he sur­passed me a long time ago.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jaromir Jagr’s next point will be the 1,888th of his ca­reer and give him sole pos­ses­sion of sec­ond place on the all-time NHL scor­ing list. He would trail only Wayne Gret­zky’s 2,857 to­tal.

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