Sean Avery. Matt Cooke. Dan Carcillo. Esa Tikkanen. Darius Kasparaitis. Theo Fleury. Jordin Tootoo. Claude Lemieux.
Besides being a list of some of my favorite players (and Sean Avery), this is also a list of players people would naturally call “hockey pests” or “four and five lettered words that you can’t say in front of mixed company.” And it’s one thing when one of these players becomes “yours” and is traded to your team. That old saying of “you hate him until he’s your teammate” easily comes into play (except possibly for Dallas Stars fans) but what happens when said player isn’t one of “those” kinds of players?
How do you go about trying to separate your personal rational (or irrational) sports hate for a hockey player everyone else loves?
Vinny, the Puck Buddies resident Islanders reporter and a hockey pest on and off the internet in his own right, had this to say:
“As Seinfeld once said, we root for laundry. We all find assholes less assholey when they are on our team. It’s what fans do. Do not apologize for it, it is natural. But realize, every fanbase does it. To judge them for it is hypocrisy.”
Which is fine and dandy when said player is Cal Clutterbuck (who is only not on my list above because I am a Steinbrenner girl and abhor facial hair) but what if it’s Jaromir Jagr?
I’ve spent most of my life hating the man with a passion that should be considered unhealthy mostly because of his record against the Devils (specifically Marty Brodeur). As we all know, Patrik Elias is my favoritest hockey player ever and, as a fan having to constantly listen to him be compared to Jagr (when there is an entire chunk of young Czech players out of Kladno that the media could much more easily compare Jagr too and sometimes do), or just completely ignored because Jagr is in the room (prior to him actually being his full-time teammate, of course) that the old Derek Edwards quote always came to my mind:
“I’m the second-most-famous person from Timmins, Ontario — after Shania Twain. That’s like being the second-most-famous person from Bethlehem. No one cares about Duncan of Bethlehem.”
And even that is a lie as Steve Sullivan and his Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is probably the second most famous person from Timmins, Ontario.
Out of 99 games played against the Devils, Jagr had a goal in 35 games and 54 assists and 89 points. As of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs when Jagr’s Flyers and Brodeur’s Devils met in post season play, Jagr had 18 goals against him, but I am unsure if in the last year as a Bruin and a Star, if he had any more chances to score on Brodeur. Because if I did know, I probably blocked those thoughts out of my mind rather quickly…
And of course, that’s not even the biggest stat that angers me. The one that annoys me the most has always been the fact that Elias is behind Jagr with the GWG in OT stat. And now after the Nov. 21st game against the LA Kings, Jagr’s numbers are even higher against Elias, as he has 18 game winning goals in over time as compared to Elias’ 15 (who is still tied with Sergei Fedorov and Mats Sundin) — and they are number 1 & 2 respectively of all time in the NHL.
Within the last couple of years, the Devils have been the last stop for quite a number of players, albeit, usually ones who used to play for them and not really players who used to dominate them, like Brendan Shanahan, Bobby Holik, (not counting European) Igor Larionov (and I guess if I’m going to use that kind of American-centric math, can’t forget;) Ilya Kovalchuk, etc. etc. so I was a little prepared for this season being The Season of Jagr but at the same time it’s still been a long strange trip just for me (who knows how weird it is for Jagr and his teammates) and it’s only December.
All that being said, yes, I understand that I am seeing Jagr (hopefully) 14 games this season live in the arena and, yes, I realize I am seeing one of the greatest players of what is sadly becoming a smaller and smaller group of players from my Golden Age of hockey who are still active and, yes, he is a hilarious interviewee (of course, so is Patrik Elias because a dry sense of humor is the best as well) which will be something we’ll all need in the incoming dark days of Devils hockey, but at the same time I still can’t get myself to chant his name with the crowds or clap & holler when his name is called for the starting lineup.
Of course, I didn’t have that big of a problem cheering for him when he scored in Game #4 of the Regular Season against the Vancouver Canucks and I am sure once he scores against his old team the New York Rangers, I’ll cheer even louder because as Vinny said, “I became a huge admirer of Cal Clutterbuck once he put on our jersey. Huger still when he scored against the Rangers.”