Q&A: Jaromir Jagr

A chat with the Flyers winger and hairstyle icon

Why come back to the NHL after three years in Russia? To take one more run at a Stanley Cup?
I wouldn’t say to win the Cup, because it’s not easy. It would be nice. But just to come here and have fun.

Photography by Christopher Leaman

Was it strange the first time you put on a Flyers jersey after all those years with the Penguins?
Not really. The Flyers wanted me the most and were the best fit for me. I thought, if I’m going to play good, I’ll play a lot, and that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want to just sit around.

How do you think the Pittsburgh fans will react when you return on December 29th?
It doesn’t matter. Before I signed with the Flyers, the GM and coaches in Pittsburgh were asked if they wanted to get Jagr back. They weren’t very interested. The fans wanted me, and there was pressure on the GM. I thought the Penguins just made an offer to look good.

Does it bother you that Penguins fans don’t know the full story as you see it?
During the Cold War, what we learned in school about America—it wasn’t really what America was about. They’re just telling you what they want to tell you.

What’s your personality as a teammate?
I like to laugh. Be positive. Getting older, that’s the way I look at the world.

You’ve been hosting extra late-night practices. How long have you done those?
All the time. If you want to be better than other people, you have to work harder. My parents were like that. Some people, when they’re resting, that makes them happy. Me? It makes me happy when I work. It’s such an advantage.

How do you like living here?
Nothing but good. I live downtown. A lot of restaurants. It’s kind of cool.

Have you enjoyed the city’s nightlife?
I’m too old for that. [laughs]

You’re 39. How much longer can you play hockey?
As long as I’m happy and I can help the team. I don’t know where I’m going to play, but I’m going to play longer than one year. My plan is to finish in Czech Republic. I own a team there.

What’s harder—playing for a team or owning one?
When you’re an owner, the summer is tough. You sign the players, you work with the sponsors. A lot of players think they’re better than they are. [laughs] Agents, they talk about their players like I’m signing Mario Lemieux. [laughs] I know who’s good and who’s not. Don’t bullshit me.

Any thoughts about bringing back the mullet haircut you made famous in the ’90s? That’s what made my name. It’s a lot easier for people to recognize you on the ice. I was pretty popular with the hair, no question about it. My second year [in the NHL], I was 19 years old. I was voted to the starting lineup in All-Stars, probably because of the hair. [laughs] I felt so stupid. I didn’t want to go.

You thought you didn’t deserve it?

If you find yourself in a midseason slump this year, just grow the hair out. I believe that there’s a power in the hair.

So we might see a mullet comeback?