Jaromir Jagr’s NHL career concluded quietly in the 2017-18 season. The 45-year-old legend had joined the Calgary Flames on a one-year deal, but he lasted just 22 games before injuries led to the termination of his contract. Despite the early exit, his stint with the Flames featured memorable moments on and off the ice.
Jagr’s mid-season departure was an unfortunate send-off for the hockey icon. But during his time with the team, he endeared himself to Flames fans, made some noteworthy appearances on the scoresheet, and added a meaningful Canadian milestone to his storied career.
Jaromir Jagr Joins the Calgary Flames in 2017-18
On Oct. 4, 2017, a then 45-year-old Jagr signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Flames. It had been six seasons since the NHL great had returned from the KHL, where he’d played for Avangard Omsk between 2008 and 2011.
Upon his NHL return, Jagr displayed impressive durability and offensive punch. Between 2011 and 2017, he found success with the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and Florida Panthers. Sure, speed was no longer an asset, but his size, strength, possession skills, and vision made him a viable NHL option in his 40s.
But the Panthers chose to move on from Jagr in the 2017 offseason, despite his productive run of two-and-a-half seasons on their top line. The five-time Hart Trophy winner then found himself without a suitor ahead of the 2017-18 season. He even sent out a tweet that poked fun at his newfound unpopularity amid free agency.
Despite earlier reports that he wanted to play in the NHL until he was 50, it appeared that the league had outgrown what Jagr had to offer. That was, until the Flames eventually brought him in on the season’s opening day to add scoring depth in their bottom six.
Jagr’s Highlights with the Calgary Flames
Upon signing with the Flames on Oct. 4, Jagr confirmed two key details: “99.9 percent this might be my last season,” he said, “so I want to get the experience so I can one day say I played for a Canadian team.”
The Flames were Jagr’s ninth NHL team, but his first in Canada. He could also break Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record if he skated in 57 games with the Flames.
But he had signed late – on Oct. 4 – which was the first day of the 2017-18 NHL season. He missed training camp and had to get himself ready before he could make his Flames debut. Early reports said that he was “not feeling great” at practice, but he still debuted seven days after signing.
The “Travelling Jagrs” Meet Their Hero
Jagr’s first highlight with the Flames came before he’d actually debuted in a game. A few days after joining the team, he made dreams come true when he crashed an interview with the “Travelling Jagrs.” This Alberta-based group of over a dozen Jagr superfans attended games dressed in his many different NHL team uniforms and era-appropriate hairstyles.
On Oct. 7, Jagr presented the mulleted “Travelling Jagrs” with a signed No. 68 Flames jersey. The star’s surprise appearance during the broadcast also mounted anticipation for his eventual debut. It came a few days later on Oct. 11.
In his third game, on Oct. 14, he notched his first point with the Flames on a Johnny Gaudreau goal against the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately, injuries soon followed – and would come to dominate his tenure with the team. He was out of the lineup between Oct. 22 and Nov. 6.
Jagr’s Goal with the Flames
His best night with the team came on Nov. 9, 2017, when he scored his lone goal as a Flame and added an important assist to go with it.
The goal, which was a pretty finish on a two-on-one with Gaudreau, came as a sigh of relief. It had taken seven games, but also over five weeks since he had signed with the team. It was his 766th and final NHL goal. In the same game, he also had the primary assist on Mark Jankowski’s first NHL goal.
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Jagr connected with Flames youngsters – such as Gaudreau, Jankowski, and Sam Bennett – on the ice and off it. His presence and influence on the team were later championed as a positive outcome of the signing.
Injuries Stunt the Jagr-Flames Experiment
Knee and groin issues kept Jagr out of the lineup and away from practice throughout his time in Calgary. He was a fixture on the third line for nearly a calendar month from early November to early December, but he was downgraded to a sporadic play and fourth-line minutes in the latter half of December.
Jagr played his last NHL game, with the Flames, on Dec. 31, 2017. He hit injured reserve on Jan. 14, and, on Jan. 28, it was announced that Jagr’s camp and the organization had negotiated a termination of his contract.
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The union between Calgary and Jagr came to an end due to the nagging injuries – and perhaps some undisclosed details, possibly related to the decrease in playing time. He returned to the Czech Republic and was soon re-injured in a game with his hometown Kladno Knights.
Jagr’s final stat line with the Flames reads one goal and six assists in 22 games. His last NHL point came on Nov. 30, when he registered the primary assist on another Jankowski goal. He went pointless in his final seven games. The Flames also missed the playoffs later that season.
Jagr at Age 48: He’s Still Scoring in the Czech Republic
Unsurprisingly, “The Ageless Wonder” is still doing his thing in the Czech Extraliga (ELH). The now 48-year-old is the president and owner of the Kladno Knights, for whom he also dresses as a player – but only during home games. In the 2019-20 season, he had put up 29 points in 38 games before the ELH paused play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jagr never officially announced his NHL retirement, but it appears that his days of hockey in North America are over. With 1,921 points, he finished second only to Wayne Gretzky on the NHL’s all-time points list. He also ended up third on the all-time games played list, falling just 23 games behind Mark Messier for second and 34 short of Gordie Howe’s record.
But for a player who played only 22 games with the Flames, Jagr had an eventful few months – and a lasting legacy with the team. Today, if you attend a Flames home game, the odds are that you’ll still see a handful of No. 68 Flames jerseys in the stands. Such was the excitement and meaning attached to the NHL legend’s time with the team in the 2017-18 season.
Jagr’s eventual departure wasn’t the NHL send-off he deserved, but his countless accomplishments and “rock star” status in the hockey world live on.
Lucas Anderson lives in Calgary, AB, and covers the Calgary Flames for THW. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto, where he completed his Master’s in Cinema Studies. Lucas writes on topics including sports, film, visual culture, and history. He still thinks about the Atlanta Thrashers, his former favourite NHL team.