Jaromir Jagr is open to having the Penguins retire his No. 68.
“(But) it’s not up to me,” Jagr said Thursday, expressing emotion while recalling his 11-year Penguins career.
Now with the New Jersey Devils, his sixth NHL club since the Penguins traded him in 2001, Jagr stressed he is “not thinking about retirement.”
His legacy with the franchise for which he won two Stanley Cup titles, five scoring titles and an MVP was on his mind hours before the Devils and Penguins were set to open their regular seasons.
“(Retiring my number) will be up to the organization and how they feel,” he said of the Penguins. “Lately, the fans don’t really appreciate me here, so I don’t know if it would be a good idea.”
Jagr was a more blunt about his picture being removed from the Penguins’ locker room. It had been there for the first three seasons at Consol Energy Center but has been replaced by an image of former Penguins star Mark Recchi.
“Whatever,” Jagr said.
Jagr’s likeness still remains outside the locker room, and Penguins officials said it would be placed again inside the dressing room after his retirement.
Jagr spoke at length about his affection for Pittsburgh sports fans, smiling and looking sentimental while he praised the city.
“They love their sports,” Jagr said. “They always loved the Steelers. Now they love the Pirates. (Penguins co-owner) Mario (Lemieux) brought the fans here for hockey. I never had issues with the fans. They treated us so well during those years, obviously. We always made the playoffs, so they were always excited. They’re crazy sports fans. And that’s good.”
Jagr, 42, is near the end of his career. Since playing with the Penguins from 1990-2001, he has become a polarizing figure to fans who once donned mullets in his honor.
It appeared Jagr was going to sign with the Penguins in 2011, but he spurned their offer and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Jagr’s Flyers defeated the Penguins in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
A season later, his Boston Bruins prevented the Penguins from making a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
Jagr acknowledged that his behavior “15 years ago” was different and that he has matured.
“I don’t mind (New Jersey’s anti-superstar system) at all,” Jagr said. “Maybe it would be different 15 years ago. Right now, I agree with how they do it. (New Jersey general manager) Lou (Lamoriello) wants everybody to feel important to his team, from the first-line guys to the fourth-line guys. That’s the way it should be.
“People think differently when they’re young. You’re more selfish when you’re younger. You want to be treated different. That’s the way I was, at least. Now I see that I was wrong.”