In A Word: Disrespect
Another Flyers visit to Consol Energy Center, another Philadelphia victory. It’s not too hard to understand. The Flyers routinely clog up the neutral zone and force the Penguins to dump and chase, whether the game’s being played in Pittsburgh or at the Wachovia Center in Philly. Going back to the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the Pens are 2-6 against the Flyers, 0-4 at the CEC. It’s more than a little disconcerting given the importance of every “4-point game” in the highly competitive Atlantic Division.
Again though, it’s not impossible to understand.
Impossible to understand is Jaromir Jagr’s continued ignorance as to why he’s booed every time he so much as blinks in front of Penguins’ fans.
Let’s not misconstrue a player leaving one team to head to another as the blatant disrespect some people always try to paint it as. However, let’s not paint what Jagr did – first in 2001, then again 10 years later – as a mere departure. What he did in 2001 was a disgrace to the captaincy of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and more importantly a slap in the face of the organization. Never willing to take a pay cut that would have helped keep him in Pittsburgh, and nothing short of demanding in his desire to be traded, the ‘C’ he wore might as well have stood for ‘coward.’ All he had done since the fall of 1990, all of the goodwill, all of the ‘Mario Jr.’ anagram t-shirts snapped up in the Strip District, were torched overnight.
Somehow Jagr couldn’t understand why.
We heard as he grew older and matured he may have some regrets about the way things went down in Pittsburgh. We heard he’d become a different person. It’s why, when the word leaked out that he may be interested in returning to the NHL, Pens fans started to let visions of the early 90s dance in their heads. You know, the days when Jagr’s on-ice brilliance wasn’t besmirched by off-ice petulance. Those visions included him opening up ice for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and taking the limelight-free backseat off the ice that seems to suit his enigmatic personality. And the possibility of Jagr returning to Pittsburgh as a prodigal son creeped closer and closer to reality as Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma didn’t shoot down the idea that they were interested. Then we heard of Mario Lemieux reaching out to Jagr. And then his agent, Petr Svoboda, told the media that his “heart is in Pittsburgh.” Even after
Ron Cook The Pensblog called Svoboda in the middle of the night, it seemed inevitable that with any brains left in that 40-year old eastern European skull of his, Jagr would come play for Mario Lemieux.
Only he didn’t. For only about $1.3 million per year, the former ‘Mario Jr.’ not only whizzed on the ashes of all that goodwill he’d torched a decade earlier, but fired a harder backhand across Lemieux’s face than the one that fluttered over Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder Thursday night for the Flyers’ go-ahead goal. Yet there Jagr was Thursday afternoon, claiming Lemieux was his idol as a teenager and that he’d never forget how Mario helped him when he came to the NHL as a baby-faced Czechoslovakian teenager.
Talk about ignorance. Talk about stupidity. Talk about balls.
Could it still be so hard for Jagr to understand after he saw the reception Max Talbot received Thursday night? A tribute to Talbot played on the scoreboard in the middle of a TV timeout, and a standing ovation followed. Talbot, in about half as many postseason games as a Penguin only had about one-fifth the amount of points Jagr did. Yet he was relentlessly involved in the community, respected the fans, his teammates, and the organization, and never whined or complained about “dying alive.” Talbot will ALWAYS be more respected in Pittsburgh than Jagr, who will go in to the Hall of Fame someday because of what he did in a Penguins’ sweater.
For those that wonder why Jaromir Jagr is booed as vociferously today as he was a decade ago, and why he will still be booed that harshly in another 10 years, look no farther than one word: Disrespect. Jagr’s disrespect for the city, his teammates, the fans, and the organization, compounded by renewed disrespect for all of them including the man he falsely claims was an ‘idol,’ will always be what he is about in the eyes of Penguins fans.
That’s not hard to understand.