Jaromir Jagr never would have predicted it in a million years.
He’s getting more ice time because of his — get this — defense.
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” said Jagr in his Czechoslovakian accent with a wry smile, about a half-hour after the Boston Bruins disposed of the Pittsburgh Penguins last weekend. “Me playing defense? Wow.”Apparently, strange things happen when you get old — he turned 41 on Feb. 21. You adapt. Or you retire.
“Oh, I’m not done playing hockey after this year, no way,” said Jagr. “I love this game too much. I’m having too much fun.”
He admits coming to the Bruins has been a lot like tasting the NHL’s version of the Fountain of Youth. The passion is special.
“I always knew this city loved hockey,” said Jagr, of his 40-plus visits to Boston as an opposing player. “But it’s more than I expected. Everyone loves this team. Everyone. I can understand it ... I love it, too.”Jagr loves it so much that he has had to swallow large chunks of his pride and be more of a facilitator than “The Man.”
“That’s hard to do when you’ve been that guy for so long,” said Jagr. “There’s extra pressure, but I always liked it. I didn’t mind the pressure. Now I have to come with a different (mindset). I have to play a role.”
It’s not a bad role, mind you, playing a regular shift with two heros from the last Bruins Stanley Cup title run, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Not to mention a spot on along the “wall” on the first power play.
In fact, his partnership with Bergeron borders on special.
“I have so much respect for Patrice,” said Jagr. “I have learned a lot watching him. A lot of guys in this league are offense first and defense second. He is the opposite, defense first and offense second.