Jaromir Jagr on NHL return, concussions and fighting his coach

toni.miil69 Blog

By Dmitry Chesnokov

Fri May 06 10:08am EDT YAHOO SPORTS

Jaromir Jagr hasn’t played in the NHL in three season now, but he is the kind of player fans do remember. Recently, Montreal radio station CJAD announced that “a well-placed NHL source tells CJAD Jagr would put Montreal on his short-list of teams he’d love to hear from for a return to the NHL.”

The rumors of Jagr coming back to the NHL surface every year. Recently, Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov met with Jagr in Slovakia, where Jagr is playing for the Czech National team in the IIHF’s World Championships, and asked him a few of questions, including some of ours.

Here is what Jagr said about his future:

“I have to see. There is time. I haven’t thought about it. My contract just ended, and if I have a good offer [from Avangard] I will certainly consider it. Maybe some other teams will make me offers. As for the NHL, we’ll see. I think that if I want to play in the NHL, I will come and I will be able to play in the NHL. I am not saying I will play on the first line, but I will be able to play.”

After the interview, Avangard Omsk announced that they had made an official offer to Jagr to stay in Russia for one more year. Jagr is expected to sign a contract with the KHL team this summer.

If he does return to the Russian league, at least he won’t have to face his former coach, who reportedly tried to fight him after one of the KHL playoff games.

A teammate of Jagr told SovSport anonymously last month that then-Omsk coach Raimo Summanen “went after Jagr with his fists after [a Game 6 victory] in Magnitogorsk. He was jumping around [Jagr], challenged him to a fight.”

Jagr didn’t want to fight his coach.

“I didn’t want to talk about it,” Jagr told us. “And now the time has passed. No one can understand what was going on apart from those who were with the team. And what happened with that coach was the last time it would ever happen to me, I hope. It was quite an experience for me. This sort of thing happened for the first time for me. And I hope it was also the last time. Bad experience.

“It’s just difficult to describe. I wish I could have more time to explain exactly what happened, but we just don’t have the time. We did have a good result as a team, but it was so difficult for every player psychologically to work with this coach. He’s good as a coach, he has a good system. But if you make a mistake, or not even, if you simply lose a game what happens after that with this coach I have no words to explain. He is a good coach, but not a good person. During the regular season he never yelled at me or told me something bad. But I saw it happening to other guys. And I asked them to tolerate it because we were showing good results. But it was also tough to see how he psychologically tried to kill his players.

“And it was my big mistake that I asked the guys to tolerate that. I should have spoken to the coach earlier to tell him he simply cannot act like that. And I think the guys were waiting for me to tell that to the coach. And I didn’t.”

So, was it true Summanen wanted to fight Jagr?

“Everything that has been written has some truth to that. Not everything. I don’t want to talk about it.”

We also asked Lysenkov to ask Jagr about his take on the amount of head injuries in the NHL. He was on the receiving end of a hit to the head by Alex Ovechkin(notes) in last year’s Olympics in Vancouver.

This is what Jagr said about the number of injuries in the game:

“You know, it is a very difficult question. On one hand hockey is a very physical contact sport. On the other, hockey is also a huge business. You employ a lot of players paying them a lot of money. You don’t want them to get injured. Imagine you pay someone like Sidney Crosby(notes) a lot of money and you don’t know when he is going to play again. The NFL had the same problem and they aggressively addressed it making changes,” he said.

“Hockey players are now a lot bigger than they were before, a lot stronger. It’s not the same game it was 20 years ago. Just look at the guys playing now! The game is a lot faster now with a lot more skill. And because it is faster and players are bigger and stronger, there will be more injuries and those injuries will be more severe. I don’t know what can be done to eliminate that.”

This October marks the 21-year anniversary of Jagr’s NHL debut. And he’s still as famous a name as you’ll find in the game.