Jaromír Jágr has made his first public appearance since news of his return to his hometown club Kladno sparked a wave of Jágrmania in the Czech Republic. Speaking to a scrum of journalists on Thursday, the ice hockey superstar discussed where things had gone wrong for him in the NHL this season – and said he would do his best to satisfy Kladno’s supporters.
The Czech hockey world has been in a state of excitement since it was announced that Calgary Flames were letting the forward go and that he was returning to his hometown club, which he also owns.
Jágr said lengthy contract negotiations with Calgary had meant he wasn’t ready for the tempo of the NHL. So he changed his training – with serious consequences.
“I started doing things my body wasn’t perhaps used to, and thanks to that I got injured in my third or fourth game. I had groin problems, which I’d experienced before. But then out of nothing, in I think the 12th game, my knee swelled up. That was new to me, and I didn’t know how to proceed. The uncertainty was maybe worse than anything else. I thought if I stopped training that would help. But it got worse and things ended the way they did.”
Jágr repeatedly referred to himself as being 46 years old, even though that birthday is still a few weeks off. And he offered this perspective on longevity.
“As I conceive of it, love is the greatest kind of energy in the world. If you put love into anything, it lasts for a long time and you enjoy what you’re doing. I’ve always loved hockey and it’s never been a problem for me to sacrifice anything for it. But naturally your body is another matter: how you react to changes, to changes in the style of hockey. You have to constantly exercise, train and regenerate to the max. That’s the only way to prevent injury. I believe that if you get injured you’re 50 percent responsible yourself.”
Jágr said if Kladno’s season ends early he will join Extraliga side Třinec. In the meantime he plans to make his first appearance for Kladno in a second flight clash with Benátky nad Jizerou on Saturday.
While fans are extremely excited, the living legend said he hopes they have realistic expectations, given his age.
“I’ve always played hockey in a such way that gives them an experience they’ll remember for their whole lives. On the other, they understand that things won’t be the same as they were before. But my nature is such that I will do my best to give the most that I can.”