How Jaromir Jagr's Capitals legacy led to Alex Ovechkin

Jaromir Jagr got his number retired by a rival so Ovi can get his number retired someday.
Jaromir Jagr, Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Jaromir Jagr, Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Pittsburgh Penguins retired the number of a Washington Capitals legend in Jaromir Jagr. So let's have fun here at Stars and Sticks with a tribute to Jagr.

Once upon a time Alex Ovechkin accepted an ESPY award. It came after winning the Stanley Cup in our famous "Summer of Ovi". Cool moment for all of us as fans. But Jaromir Jagr, a player who once held the Caps back was the problem before Ovechkin. But he was still a legend and Ovechkin would later go on to pass him on the road to Wayne Gretzky. Jagr even acknowledged it on his Instagram in a troll post.

But what exactly happened during the Jagr era that made it not work. I asked my good friend Bill Bride who has gone to Caps games since the old Capital Centre to aid me in this. So here's what happened that led Jagr to the Caps which made me understand why we all booed him as fans when he played for the New York Rangers. Note: responses were edited for length and clarity as best as I could.

""Summer 2001. If I remember the Pens were having attendance issues and eventually Mario Lemieux and his group took over. Can't remember of it was after the trade but the Caps traded a bunch of prospects for Jagr and another defenseman, Kuchera I think his name was. The Pens wanted to unload salary and Kuchera was slated to make a ton of cash as was Jagr. Ted (Leonsis) wanted to make a splash so he did by making the deal AND signing Jagr to a 7 year extension. Jagr had some good moments but he often looked disinterested and didn't go 100 percent. Caps missed the playoffs in 2002, with Jagr, and Coach Ron Wilson was fired.""

Bill Bride

Good point there. The interest wanted to dwindle and Uncle Ted had to do something about it. So he thought and then got a little help from the ping pong balls when he decided to go full tank the following year.

Bride added:

""Feb. 2004 Caps were sellers at the deadline and Jagr was traded to the Rangers and the Caps took on a lot of Jagr's salary. In addition, the Caps traded Peter Bondra to Ottawa and they got Brooks Laich in the deal. Glen Hanlon replaced Bruce Cassidy, who was in over his head. Caps tank that year landed them the number one overall pick and we know who they took with that pick, the Great 8!""


And Bride also told me this and this was his opinion on the matter, you can follow his work on X at @DMVSportsShots where he takes really good action shots in a variety of sports:

""I hated that deal when it was made and when they signed him to the extension, hated that move. Plus they took on about half his salary when they traded him. All bygones after the Caps got who they got in the 2004 draft.

In short, I compare this to an RV owner. You are happy the day you get it and the day you get rid of it.""


So when I was a kid starting to watch Capitals games I was too young to understand why Peter Bondra got traded and now I know why. It all makes sense and in the end it led us to drafting a gem in 2004. And he has aged gracefully to where he can go on up to a six game goal streak this season. Maybe he can try for seven games to get closer to the great one. After all he doesn't have to worry about Jagr chasing him... yet.

So congrats on your "retirement from the NHL" or just a jersey retirement Jaromir Jagr! Even if it happened to be with the wrong team at the time.