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Jagr ready to make an impact in anticipated return to NHL

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TSN.ca Staff
9/17/2011 6:51:56 PM
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It wasn't exactly 'The Decision', but it was a decision that still upset his original team's fan base.

But Jaromir Jagr was quick to point out that he didn't feel he was hurting anyone by not signing as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins, opting instead to ink with their instate rivals in Philadelphia.

"When I was making the decision, I never thought the Pittsburgh fans would want me back. Every time I played there, they were booing me every time I touched the puck," said Jagr at Philadelphia's first skate in Voorhees, New Jersey.

It was reported that Jagr left Pittsburgh's one-year, $2 million offer on the table heading into this summer's free agent period. Penguins general manager Ray Shero ultimately pulled the offer before free agency began, and when the market opened, the Flyers quickly stepped in and signed him to a one-year deal worth $3.3 million.

"I didn't think it was going to be such a big deal that I wasn't going to sign with Pittsburgh. On the other side, it was my decision, and don't forget it was my second time as a free agent in 21 years," Jagr said. "I never really was a free agent. Every time I was almost a free agent, the team would sign me long term.

"The first time (I was a free agent) I was 36, I decided to go to Russia and the second time, I had a chance to do what I felt was the best for me. If I hurt somebody, I apologize, because I didn't want to. On the other side, I just don't understand why people can be that mad about my decision."

Jagr, who played the last three seasons in Russia, helped lead the Penguins to two Stanley Cup titles in the 1990's alongside Mario Lemieux. He also played for the Rangers and Capitals.

A Czech native, Jagr won an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2006. He also won two World Championship titles for his country in 2005 and 2010.

Most people believed he would not return to the NHL, but Jagr enjoys the challenge and all the talk that he may not be able to keep up with an evolving game.

"A lot of people say the league has changed, a lot of young guys, a little bit quicker," he said. "I wasn't here the last three years, but it's not like I didn't play hockey for the last three years. I didn't retire, I was just playing in a different league, on a different ice. That's going to be the biggest difference, the ice. And it's probably going to take me some time to adjust, but hopefully, it will be quick."

Jagr has one of the best NHL resumes of all-time. He has led the league in scoring five times, and has one Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. In 1273 career games, he has 646 goals and 953 assists. His 1,599 points are good for ninth all-time in league scoring.

He seems confident that he can still be a key piece to a team like the Flyers.

"There's probably a lot of people who are wondering if I can still play. Fine with me. I'm not 21, and trying to prove something to you with my words, you just have to wait and see. I can promise you one thing: I'm going to give it my best shot to play on a high level," said Jagr, who is just 42 points back of Joe Sakic for eighth place on the all-time NHL scoring list.

"Don't forget, I'm 39. I didn't come here just for one year to embrace myself. I'm not saying I'm going to be dominating, I'm not saying I'm going to play good. But I promise you, I'm going to do all the right things to play."

Jaromir Jagr (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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