Five Questions: Devils' Jagr has drive to keep playing
"I don't know where I'm going to play, but I want to still play until I can't walk anymore," Jagr said. "To me, age is nothing. I don't get old. I don't know why. You've gotta ask God, man."
Jagr has shown enough this season to warrant him coming back to the NHL next season, which would be his 21st here and 24th professionally (he played in Russia from 2008-11). He leads the Devils with a team-high 64 points and hasn't missed a game this season. He even played in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
And when Jagr signs with a team next season (read below to see which team he favors), it will be only for next season. Jagr has been playing on one-year contracts since returning to the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2011-12 season. He likes the pressure that comes with a one-year contract. He thrives under the prove-it conditions.
"I see guys sign for two or three years and they're done. Why would I do that?" Jagr said. "There's extra push for me [in a one-year contract]. If I want to play next year, I have to do good the year before because nobody is going to give you anything in my age."
Jagr, though, gave NHL.com 15 minutes of his time after the Devils' morning skate Monday for the following wide-ranging Q&A that even features some bonus material at the end that Devils fans in particular will want to read.
Here are Five Questions with … Jaromir Jagr:
What continues to motivate you to keep you coming back and doing this at a high level? What do you love about it?
"Everything. The game. The love for it. The fans. The challenges. It's all motivating. Where else do you find a place and whatever you do there's a lot of people watching you do it? I'm addicted to that. That's why the NHL is so special, you've got full arenas, people watching on TV. That's extra pressure."
For you personally this season have you played above your expectations, at your expectations, or below your expectations?
"Me personally, I think I can be a lot better and the team can play a lot better. We had a lot of injuries and it's a new team. There were a lot of pluses, but also a lot of minuses for me. The minuses I look at are it's a new team and learning a new system. It's a lot easier to play with the guys who have been together for three, four or five years. You don't have to learn anything new. You don't need 20 games just to find out how the other guys play. I don't think it's possible for anybody, it doesn't matter if you're [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, whoever, to win the scoring title with a new team. It's not possible. I never did it."
In terms of your production, though, there are people surprised that you've put up almost 65 points at your age. Should they be?
"Why? I don't think 65 points is something special. I had 150. That's a huge decline to me. That's why I'm not happy about it. God give me a lot of talent and you don't lose the talent unless you stop working. I love to work."
Speaking of that, you've said many times before that you don't get tired. You said earlier you don't get old. What do you do off the ice that allows you to feel that way?
"Not everybody can do whatever they want, but I know my body. Maybe I get old, but not that quickly like somebody else. I don't get tired. Or, maybe I get tired, but not like everybody else; a little bit slower. I know my body, so if I go work out the night before the game, some guys won't do it because they'll get tired, but I don't get tired. I like the feeling to be strong. I do it because I feel strong. Some guys don't do it because they would get tired, but I don't get tired. These aren't secrets, but the things I do probably 90 percent of the people can't do it because it would hurt them. But my body is used to it.
"When I was younger I skated probably four hours every day. We were on a farm, so I would work in total probably eight hours every day. My body just got used to it. This, now, is like fun for me. Compared to how I worked when I was younger, as a kid when I was five or six years old, this is like vacation to me. It's comparing eight hours to one or two hours. I just built something when I was young. In Czech they were saying whatever you learn when you're young, you find it when you're older. It's true. It's true with anything. If you learn a new language, once you learn it when you were young it's a lot easier to pick it up. You never forget. It's already inside. My body has a memory."
Did going to Russia, playing there for three seasons, and then coming back to the NHL give you a better or different appreciation of what you have here in the NHL?
"That's one thing, but I think the cycle -- I wouldn't say the pressure because I don't mind it -- but the cycle of doing the same thing for 17 or 18 years like just play, play, play, play, then take one month off, play again, and every game you need to produce, sometimes you need a change. That's what I needed mentally. I couldn't have it here. There are 20 players and when you play everyone expects you to do it, and I expect myself to do it. And physically it helped me for sure, because I was skating on the big ice again and it's a lot tougher. The practices in Russia, you get no days off. The training and summer training in Russia, you practice eight hours a day. You're there, so you have to do it. I don't mind it.
"Not that I'm quick, but the reaction time [in the NHL] you kind of lose because of playing on the big ice. It took me a little bit. I was younger in Philly, but I didn't play the NHL-style game. It took me a little while to get it back."
Can you see yourself coming back to the Devils next season?
"I hope so. I like it here."
"You know what, Lou [Lamoriello] is probably one of the nicest GMs to play for. He understands the game. He's got a lot of experience. He's been around the team for 25 years, so he knows how players react and what players need. You have to follow some rules, be loyal to the team, the team is No. 1, but when you do it you get anything you want. But you've gotta show up. You've gotta work hard for the team. That should be automatic.
"What I love, and not many people can do it, [Lamoriello] separates the hockey from the personal. Some GMs, when you have a bad week or two or three weeks, when you're not scoring and you're supposed to score, they look at you like you're the worst guy on Earth ever. But you didn't change as a person. You just can't score. That doesn't make you a bad person. That's what I love about Lou, you're a person and that's one thing, and you're a hockey player. If you do something bad as a hockey player he'll let you know, but he'll still love you as a person if you don't mess it up. There's not many people who can separate it because they feel the pressure. They look at you and they put the total package together. It's two different things, the job and the person. Not many guys running a company can handle it, but he does. He's one of the best at it."Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer @drosennhl