NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Scott’s improbable, happy-to-be-here tale was the dominant story leading up to NHL All-Star Weekend, but another man of the people in fan voting made it clear Friday that he is not happy to be here at all.
Reporters got right to the point with Jaromir Jagr at media day. The first question he faced was this: Tell us the truth, you really want to be here, right?
“No,” he replied.
Jagr insisted that he wasn’t complaining and that he appreciates fans’ desire to see him, but he said that two weeks shy of his 44th birthday, he would rather be working out in Florida to build strength for the stretch run, not chasing younger men in a three-on-three tournament in Tennessee.
“I have to be here,” he said. “I was ordered in. I don’t want to be suspended. I don’t want to miss any games.”
NHL rules call for players selected as All-Stars to sit out one regular-season game if they skip the event, as Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews are doing.
Jagr weighed the pros and cons and decided to show up for his first All-Star Game since 2004, but he will not push himself. He said that when he and the Islanders’ John Tavares met Friday to dole out assignments for Saturday night’s skills competition, Jagr opted for none of the above.
What, no fastest skater competition?
“I don’t want to embarrass anybody out there,” he joked. “What if I win? I could.”
Jagr also said he planned to skip some shifts in Sunday’s three-on-three tournament.
Jagr is the second-leading scorer on the first-place Panthers, with 15 goals and 18 assists, so he does have credentials to be here this season on top of his extraordinary career credentials.
He was 19 when he first appeared in an All-Star Game in 1992. He said he felt then the way Scott initially did in 2016 — that perhaps he did not belong.
“I was playing on the third or fourth line on the Pittsburgh Penguins because we had so many great players, and the fans voted me in,” he said. “I felt kind of embarrassed. I didn’t want to come. I was 19, and to see all the superstars and I was in the starting lineup. But I was playing on the fourth line in Pittsburgh.
“It was kind of strange. I didn’t like that feeling.”
Jagr said he doesn’t feel or act old, and that he feels as if he fits in with his much younger teammates.
Someone asked which record means the most to him at this stage, when he sets some sort of mark nearly every time he takes the ice. He paused 18 seconds before answering.
“Just to play at my age is a big challenge every day,” he said. “Just to play and somehow be helpful for the team. That is my record.”