It’s 7:00PM on a warm October’s night in Los Angeles, and more than 18,000 roaring fans at the Staples Center are watching a goat skate around the ice.
Well okay, maybe not an actual goat, but quite possibly the closest thing to one – Jaromir Jagr donning a Calgary Flames jersey.
The 45-year old Czech forward signed a contract with the Flames just a week earlier, his ninth NHL team, and played in game number 1,712 of his career. While Jagr struggled in his first game in nearly six months – finishing without a shot on net and just over 13 minutes of time on ice, his reputation within the league remains unchanged.
The living legend, currently sporting a mullet despite being in his mid-40’s, has earned a reputation across the league as the “GOAT”, or Greatest of All Time, for his continued success in his nearly three decades of professional hockey. No stranger to the record books, Jagr is currently second all-time in NHL points, third in goals, fifth in assists, and fourth in games played.
But as is with professional athletes across sports, Jagr acknowledges that he is not the player he once was with the Pittsburgh Penguins over the first decade of his career.
“I know very well I’m not the same player [I was] 10 or 15 years ago,” Jagr recently told NHL.com. “[Back then] I was able to win games by myself.” Because of this steady decline of production from age, the idea of retirement from hockey is something that Jagr very openly contemplated within the media. After a press conference where he and the Flames announced their 1-year deal, he put a percentage of “99.9%” as this being his final season in the league.
Retirement can be a tough pill to swallow for both fans and players alike. For a player like Jagr, his whole life has largely been defined by his ability to put the puck in the net. A future without hockey for Jagr is full of uncertainty, one that would be hard to accept.
Growing up and watching players excel in sport can be beautiful, but as a player ages so does their ability to succeed. In a blink of an eye, Father Time catches up and retirement becomes a real possibility.
Some players ride off into the sunset and into retirement gracefully. Take, for example, the NFL great, Peyton Manning. In 2015 the hall-of-fame quarterback retired after his fourth and final Super Bowl appearance, a 24-10 win against the Carolina Panthers. Other athletes just can’t seem to grasp the concept. Brett Favre, another former NFL quarterback, retired once from the Green Bay Packers in 2008, only to come back out of retirement two more times in the following seasons.
Whether retirement is caused by injury, age, or the simple opportunity to pursue other opportunities, take the time to appreciate legendary sporting performances and careers by our favorite (or even least favorite) athletes. You never know what game might be their last.