Jaromir Jagr, then a 20-year-old superstar, remembers everything about the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals when his Pittsburgh Penguins swept the Blackhawks.
That’s 1992, folks.
Jagr especially remembers the clutch goal he scored with 4:55 to play in Game 1 when he wove his way through Brent Sutter, Frantisek Kucera and Igor Kravchuk, then beat goalie Eddie Belfour with a backhander, to make it 4-4 in a game the Penguins once trailed 4-1.
Mario Lemieux scored in the final half-minute to give Pittsburgh the 5-4 win.
“We were down 4-1 and I didn’t think we had a chance because they were forechecking really well,” Jagr said Tuesday as his Bruins prepare to face the Hawks in the Finals. “With five minutes left we were down 1 and I got lucky and score a pretty good-looking goal and Mario won it with 15 seconds left. Even though it was the first game, I thought it was a pretty key game.”
Jagr called it the second biggest goal of his career.
“I remember the game in 1998 we had to win against New Jersey in first round and if we didn’t I guess the hockey club would move to Kansas City because they didn’t have any money,” Jagr said. “We won that game in overtime when I scored. I felt that was the most important goal because it was a stay-or-leave goal. I think it was more important then the goal I scored in the Final.”
Those 1992 Finals were played in Chicago Stadium, which Jagr remembers for the stairs out of the dressing room up to the ice.
“It was the old Chicago arena,” Jagr said. “You got tired before you went to the game because we had to go through the stairs. You almost fell when you went to the dressing room. That was a test of how you really felt, the way you went up the stairs before the game.”
Now 41 years old, Jagr is back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since ’92 — facing a whole new generation of Hawks. At least three Hawks claim he has been a major influence on their careers: Jonathan Toews, Michael Frolik, who grew up in the same town as Jagr in the Czech Republic, and Brandon Saad, who idolized Jagr growing up in Pittsburgh.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Toews said. “He was probably one of my favorite players when I was a kid. I think I wore No. 68 when I was playing summer hockey a couple summers, had his Coho Jagr stick. I looked up to him. Now here I am getting a chance to play against him in the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s pretty amazing.
“I remember talking about guys like Teemu Selanne this year. I guess Jaromir Jagr, Nicklas Lidstrom, guys like that, when they’re not playing anymore, you remember the chance you had to play against them and realize it’s a special honor. But it doesn’t take away from the competition. You always want to prove yourself regardless of their age. I’ll definitely try to take it to him (Wednesday).”
Toews was asked if he could see himself playing at the age of 41.
“Come talk to me in 15 years,” the 24-year-old Toews said.
“Well, I would probably answer the same way when I was his age,” Jagr said. “Fifteen years later he’s probably going to answer the same way I did.”
Jagr wears his hair shorter now and his beard has a touch of gray in it. He once wore his hair in a mullet.
“When I had the long hair, I wouldn’t say it was the style, but I wasn’t the only one who had it,” he said. “There were a lot of guys who wore it, maybe not that long, but a lot of guys had long hair. It’s going to come back, you’ll see.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.