Jaromir Jagr turns 50: Memories of No. 68, Kit Kat bars, ‘an incredible student’ and a teenage sensation

Josh Yohe Feb 15, 2022 96
Badger Bob Johnson, the loveable and always-positive coach of the 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins, never yelled at his players. Ever. He was the ultimate glass-half-full coach.

Finally, in a December home game that season, Johnson yelled. For months, he had been warning his 18-year-old rookie sensation, Jaromir Jagr, to stop skating with his head down in the neutral zone.

Jagr got drilled by a center-ice hit and, when he skated to the bench, Johnson yelled at him. And Jagr started to cry on the bench.

Thirty-two years later, Jagr — he of hockey wisdom, hockey zen, flowing mullets, ageless endurance, 2 a.m. workouts, a revolving door of model girlfriends, 1,921 NHL points, and owner of the Czech Extraliga’s Rytíři Kladno — turns 50 on Tuesday. Those who played with him love Jagr to this day and, while they marvel at the 50-year-old who still plays hockey, they love nothing more than romanticizing about the 18-year-old who took Pittsburgh by storm.

“He cried a lot that year,” Kevin Stevens said. “That time on the bench wasn’t the only time. Poor kid.”

That wasn’t necessarily Stevens’ mindset at the time. As Jagr cried on the bench following a tongue-lashing from Johnson, linemate Phil Bourque put his arm around him.

“I just kept saying, ‘It’ll be OK, Jags,'” Bourque said. “I was trying to comfort him. He wasn’t just crying. He was literally sobbing. He couldn’t breathe. And you have to remember, we had a team of alpha males. Nothing but alpha males.