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Jaromir Jagr’s “brain doesn’t understand” the Pittsburgh hate

Dec 28, 2011, 9:43 PM EST

jagrgirouxgetty Getty Images

Jaromir Jagr‘s return to the NHL has been as glorious as anyone could have expected. He’s playing outstanding hockey alongside Claude Giroux, generally loving life as an unlikely member of the Philadelphia Flyers and the 39-year-old veteran is providing great quotes when he’s off the ice.

Just about everyone is happy for the future Hall of Famer … everyone except fans from the city where he built much of that staggering resume, that is. Jagr knows what he’s in for as the Flyers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, but as he told Anthony J. Sanfilippo, he’s not entirely sure why he’ll receive such an angry greeting.

“How, in a situation like that, can there be so much bad attitude and anger from those people? I don’t get it.” Jagr said. “What kind of world are we in right now? That’s (bleeping) scary. We should be in a world with a lot of love. Instead there’s one guy, who is 40 years old, who is almost done, and he’s causing all that (animosity) over hockey? My brain just doesn’t understand that.”

I’ll be honest: my brain doesn’t really understand it, either. Jagr does a fine job of explaining the rather hilarious love-hate-love-really-hate relationship in Pittsburgh.

“When I left Pittsburgh I was traded,” Jagr said. “The first time I came back with Washington everybody booed me so bad. But I was traded. I didn’t leave. But they are going to hate me anyway. They’ve hated me for seven years. Then, when there is a chance that I am going to go back there, all of the sudden they switch for one or two months? Then I don’t go, and they go back to hating me, but even more than before. I don’t get it. I don’t know what kind of world we’re living in. I don’t get it.”

Jilted lovers

The Pittsburgh hate seems a little misguided, but nostalgia can be an intoxicating feeling. In a way, Penguins fans looked back at their time with Jagr like one would look at an up-and-down relationship; you tend to gloss over the painful dates in favor of those rare long walks on the beach.

When Jagr signed with the Flyers, it was like that same ex cheating on them again.

Whether it makes sense or not, Jagr’s first trip to the Consol Energy Center will seem a lot like his previous visits to the Igloo: full of boos. Don’t blame Jagr if he bares a wistful grin or two, though.

  1. Stiller43 - Dec 28, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    You hit the nail on the head.

    And yeah, i do seem to recall jagr getting his way by getting out of town. Not everything was peachy when he left. Thats why we hated him the first time.

    But as you said, once you have a shot to get back with that person, you think “ehhh alright, lets forget about before.”

    There were wide spread reports that he would come and play for pittsburgh for league minimum. Then all of a sudden, he’s like “hey i think i’ll take more money and go to your biggest rival.”

    If jagr doesnt understand why people hate him for that, he’s an idiot.

    • tjv027 - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:16 AM

      The problem with this argument is that this summer, Jagr never came out and said “It looks like I’ll be returning to Pittsburgh, get ready Pens fans!”. Anything coming out about Jagr coming back to Pittsburgh was speculation, rumors, and insider reporting. For all we know, Jagr didn’t consider Pittsburgh as heavily as everyone thinks he did.

      As a matter of fact, if you want to go off of something that Jagr actually said, the Flyers offer wasn’t his most lucrative choice. He’s been out of the league four years, and he wanted to come back in the situation he felt was best for him, so he picked Philly. As a Philly fan, I can understand the boobirds being out tomorrow, I think these boos will reek of sour grapes.

      • tjv027 - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:17 AM

        but I think*

  2. terriers4 - Dec 28, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    I agree with you stiller I think the hate is pretty clear and well directed. I’m not even a big Pittsburg fan but what he did annoys me

  3. icedog97 - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    When Jagr left Pittsburgh the perception — because of his “dying alive” comments – was that he wanted out. That was a comment that fans mis-interpreted. He had a $10M contract (and some money issues) and was on a team that was going down the tubes financially (as we learned later). His comments were probably more about that (the weight of that contract on a team that was bleeding cash) than anything else. The fans that booed his visits here BEFORE this year were wrong in doing so. I always hated that.

    But this whole idea of coming back to play here…one that Jagr and his agent seemed to play up…it stunk from start to finish.

    Jagr DID say (a few years back) he would play for the league minimum in Pittsburgh after his contract in the KHL was up. He said he owed it to Mario.

    His agent DID say during this summer that Jagr’s “heart was in Pittsburgh”.

    He and his agent were given a deadline by Shero for a decision on an offer that was made…and to the best of my knowledge, they DID NOT respond by/at the deadline and did not request to discuss the offer in any more detail. Then Shero pulled it.

    Whether or not he ever REALLY wanted to play in Pittsburgh again, we’ll probably never know…but what happened during the summer ends up looking a lot more like he used the Pens to get better offers…and then went to their biggest rival.

    If he can’t understand some of anger from that…then he really just doesn’t get it.

    I rarely say fans should boo a player…but in this case…let him have it.

    • abrienza428 - Dec 29, 2011 at 8:17 AM

      You hit the nail on the head. There wasn’t much of a reason to boo him before this season, but he definitely used the Penguins to leverage better offers. And he did this AFTER Lemieux invited him to the 91 Cup team reunion in order to mend fences and eventually retire Jagr’s number. The way he talks now it’s as if he never considered Pittsburgh.

      • grandpoopah - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:44 PM

        Maybe they invited him to the 91 cup team reunion because HE WAS A MEMBER OF THE 91 CUP TEAM! How dumb are you?

  4. tharealest0431 - Dec 29, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    Jagr is a joke point blank period. No one can debate that he’d be in a better situation playing alongside Crosby or Malkin than any other team in the league. We dont’t need this bum in Pittsburgh, we have enough talent.

    • spiciercheez - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:38 AM

      How can be playing alongside Crosby??? Looks like he made the right choice after all…

      • spiciercheez - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:40 AM

        he*

  5. rexadelphia8 - Dec 29, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    We are glad to have jagr. Pittsburg sucks anyway it’s just another greyhound stop. Go flyboys

    • napoleonblownapart6887 - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      First things first – Pittsburgh has an ‘h’ on the end of it. Kind of undermines your credibility when you can’t spell the name of the city.

      Second – your feelings on the city of Pittsburgh have no bearing on this particular piece. If you just want to take potshots at the city their are probably other places you can do that.

      Finally to the actual point – the reason people hate Double J is because of his surly demeanor, his unwillingness to mentor other players and to “play nicely in the sandbox” with other stars, and some of the great lengths that Mario went to to bring him back. I’m a diehard Pens fan, and I appreciate evertyhing Double J did for this team (like winning two cups, for instance), but at the end of the day, it comes down to something pretty simple: he signed with the Flyers. It’s no secret that they are our fiercest rival (apologies to Washington and New York), so it doesn’t matter who you are, if you sign with them you’re going to get booed.

      • spiciercheez - Dec 29, 2011 at 10:39 AM

        Quick question, will Talbot get booed then?

  6. jpelle82 - Dec 29, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    talbot won the stanley cup for pittsburgh and got no love. just like benedict arnold he switched sides when he didnt get his glory. he should get booed if anyone…not jagr. jagr was traded, talbot left for money.

    • icedog97 - Dec 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM

      Talbot was basically told by Shero he wasn’t going to get a raise…based on what he had done SINCE helping the team win the cup…he probably didn’t deserve much of one anyway.

      I wanted Max to stay…but I wanted Malone to stay too…and sometimes it’s better for both sides if the player takes advantage of a contract offer that probably isn’t ever going to be matched in the future.

      Max left for money…yes…but you really can’t blame a guy who is trying to secure his future…can you?

      I’d have a hard time booing Talbot…because I don’t think he did anything disingenuous.

      Jagr, on the other hand…he played the Pens. If he REALLY wanted to come back to Pittsburgh…he would have worked out a deal and that would have been it. Truth is, he wanted to use the Pens to drive up his value. Otherwise, wouldn’t he have taken the $2M (or so) the Pens offered instead of the $3M the Flyers gave him?

      Remember, at the time, the Flyers had just jettisoned Richards and Carter and there were plenty of gloom and doom fortune tellers in Philly and around the league that said the Flyers would struggle to make the playoffs. Why would he want to go there?

      No…going back and aligning all the FACTS from the time…Jagr and his agent knew what they were doing and Jagr just doesn’t get it because he never understood the reason why he was booed in the first place…the fans just wanted him back.

  7. govtminion - Dec 29, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Jagr does have a point about not understanding the hate. Why should he understand it? It’s sports fans, do we ever do anything that makes sense?

    Look at L.A. fans a decade back, booing Rob Blake every time he touched the puck as a member of the Avalanche. He’d played for the Kings his whole career to that point, but they booed him as if it was Stalin with the puck. As soon as he came back to the Kings? All was forgiven, yaaay.

    The same would have happened with Jagr in Pittsburgh, if he’d gone there. All of the booing he heard there as part of the Rangers and Capitals, all would have been instantly forgiven. If he’d played for someone else- particularly a Western team- he might even have been cheered in Pittsburgh still. But he went to the archrivals across the state- that pretty much guaranteed the boo-birds would be out in force.

    It’s sports, Jaromir. As Blake, Brett Favre, or LeBron James could tell you, it isn’t about what you’ve done- it’s about what you’ve done LATELY. What you did lately was sign with the one team that would guarantee the fury of Penguins fans.

  8. grandpoopah - Dec 29, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    You Pittsburgh fans are a bunch of insecure, ungrateful babies. Jagr was an all-time great for your team, and he deserves way better than the treatment he has received from you knuckleheads. You should be ashamed.

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