The Washington Times - April 29, 2008, 03:11PM

\ I wrote a little about Jaromir Jagr today, but there was some stuff I wasn’t able to get to or expand upon properly. He really is a fascinating character, one of the unique personalities in the history of the sport. One day he is reflective and can provide great insight, the next immature and brooding. \ \ \ I talked to Dave Molinari, who has covered the Penguins for a long time and really is one of the best in our businees, about Jagr and the jersey retirement thing earlier this season. He didn’t think Jagr’s No. 68 would be going up any time soon. Most teams in the NHL are very selective about who joins that club (and to be honest, the Caps are in danger of being one of the three or four teams that just has way too many of them considering the franchise’s success). One guy whose opinion I respect greatly told me you shouldn’t have more jerseys in the rafters than Stanley Cup banners, and I think that holds true for almost every franchise. Pittsburgh won two Cups (and might have won a couple more) in the early 90s and only Mario Lemieux’s No. 66 hangs at Mellon Arena from that era. Michel Briere, who died after a long battle with injuries sustained in a car crash after his rookie season in the early 70s, is the only other player in team history to have his jersey retired. \ \ \ Jagr is clearly the second-best player in Penguins history, but he wasn’t clearly the second-best player on those two Cup teams. Those teams were loaded with Hall of Fame talents, and Jagr was just a kid who didn’t become a full-blown superstar until the mid-90s. There is also the falling out to consider. While there is plenty of contempt between Caps and Penguins fans, I am a little surprised the two fan bases don’t connect more on the one thing they have in common: Their strong distaste for No. 68. \ \ \ Because the Penguins have been so strict with the jersey retirement thing, it won’t surprise me if Jagr doesn’t earn that recognition. The Penguins have a Ring of Honor in the arena, and he is already part of that. Lemieux and Briere will probably be the only two for the forseeable future, although it is a good bet that the next guy is on the team right now. If there was handicapping to be done on which current NHL players whose jerseys will be retired, there are the obvious older guys like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano and Martin Brodeur. But I think it is fair to say Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have already climbed near the top of that list despite their youth. \ \ \ Anyway, I am going to be out of the loop for a few days, but here is some of the leftover quotes I collected about Jagr. I was a little surprised to see both Michal Rozsival and Petr Sykora talk about him as a leader. I think the players from the Czech Republic have a slightly different opinion of him than some of the other guys would.\ \ \ BRANDON DUBINSKY\ \ \ Jags and I play a little bit of the same style. We both hold onto the puck down low and try to create scoring chances by holding guys off beating them to the net. That was one of the attributes I bring to the line is being able to get the puck down low and hang onto it and let him get open to get it to him. \ \ \ [Straka] is kind of the glue. We try to slow things down, but we know we can give it to him and he’s fast. He gets the puck up the ice well, and he’s one of those responsible guys who always tries to make sure things go smoothly.\ \ \ Q: Were you star struck at all?\ \ \ Maybe the first time around \0x2013 this is my second time playing with him. Earlier in the year I was and then they switched it up. It wasn’t so much who we were playing with this time, it was just about getting the team back on a winning track.\ \ \ MICHAL ROZSIVAL\ \ \ I think he is a totally different guy. When he played [in Pittsburgh], he was more about himself. Now he is totally different guy. He is like a new person. Now he is trying to help other guys, working with the younger guys and try to teach to them some of his tricks. \ \ \ I remember what it was like here. It could just be there was so much pressure on him here all the time to be a 100-point scorer, he had to think about himself more.\ \ \ PETR SYKORA \ \ \ Obviously he went through a pretty tough season for his standards, but pretty close to 80 points is still a good season. The team is different now because there is not just one line who gets all the power-play time and the good scoring opportunities. Now they have three lines to share the ice time. \ \ \ HAL GILL\ \ \ He’s picked up his game. He’s obviously really skilled and really talented. He’s so strong and big and he’s got a lot of weapons. He is certainly someone you notice when he’s out there.\ \ \ Age catches up with all of us, but I don’t think it has slowed him down too much. When you get older, you get smarter. He relies on his teammates more often, and it makes him a better player at times. \ \ \ He’s so strong on his skates. You can get caught, because if he catches you trying to lean on him one way, he is pretty good at spinning the other way. It is part of what makes him so effective. \


\ Photo by Getty Images\

\ — Corey Masisak