GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03: Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Philadelphia Flyers smiles as he skates up to a face off against the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on December 3, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Flyers defeated the Coyotes 4-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Jaromir Jagr makes his long-awaited return to Pittsburgh tonight, and he's going to get booed like an anti-cancer ad in Philly every time he touches the puck tonight. (See, we can joke too, you guys.) The fact that the boos will potentially be the loudest thing at CONSOL Energy Center all season goes to show just how the Penguins have completely controlled the message regarding their attempts to sign Jaromir Jagr this past summer.
And just as a pretext to this incredible story from Jagr in the Delaware County Times this morning, why the hell would Jaromir Jagr be dishonest about this situation? There's literally no reason for him not to be completely honest about how things when down with the Penguins this summer, considering he's very obviously not concerned with how people in Western Pennsylvania think of him.
"First of all, I personally didn't talk to anybody [in Pittsburgh]," he said, hinting that it was his agent, former Flyer Petr Svoboda, who was chatting with the Penguins. "I just don't understand one thing when I read it. How, in a situation like that, can there be so much bad attitude and anger from those people? I don't get it. What kind of world are we in right now? That's fuckin' 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 shit over hockey? My brain just doesn't understand that."
Jagr's been pretty damn consistant about this all along. He's said it in multiple interviews, including on 24/7, that the Penguins just didn't seem as interested in him as the Flyers did. Chris Pronger and several other Flyers called him personally, while Pens GM Ray Shero never even spoke with Jagr directly. The extra $1.3 million aside, the Flyers clearly showed more here.
Jagr has also said that from a hockey standpoint, he has more of an opportunity in Philly than he would have in Pittsburgh or even Detroit, and that's a big reason why he signed with the Flyers. He reiterated that point in the interview here with Anthony SanFilippo of the Delco Times.
This wasn't really about turning his back on Pittsburgh, no matter how much Penguins fans want to believe that. I suppose it's easy to believe when their general manager is going along with the narrative that Jagr "snubbed" the Penguins, something that's obviously being spun by the Pitt media.
They're clearly still bitter out on the Western side of the state about when Jagr was traded to the Capitals -- some (mostly in Pittsburgh) will say he "demanded" a trade, others will say an expensive, Hall of Fame-caliber player couldn't come to a business agreement with a cash-strapped hockey club, Jagr himself will say he offered to be traded to help that cash-strapped team. You believe what you will.
The fact is that he was traded, regardless of the reason, and via that same Delco Times interview, Jagr says he didn't exactly appreciate the reception he got from Penguins fans afterward.
"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."
As I see it, this would be somewhat like the Flyers trading away Rod Brind'Amour, a guy who was absolutely beloved in his time with the Flyers, and then the fans booing him relentlessly every time he returned to South Philadelphia.
Then, several years later when Brindy was looking for a job as a free agent, we'd expect him to want to come back to us, even though there are other teams more interested in him than we are, willing to give him a bigger role on their team and more money to boot.
When our old friend would make the decision that's clearly the right one for just about every reason aside from meaningless nostalgia, we'd call it a snub and scream from the rooftops about this grave injustice. How silly would we be?
Just about as silly as 18,000 Penguins fans will be tonight around 7 p.m.