The NHL wants to retire Jágr's iconic '68' jersey. Not yet, says Czech hockey great

The Pittsburgh Penguins want to honor Jaromír Jágr career by hanging his jersey from the rafters. The 50-year-old has other plans for now.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 24.01.2023 10:44:00 (updated on 24.01.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

In a recent interview with Pittsburgh Hockey Now, Pittsburgh Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque said that the club wants to retire Czech hockey legend Jaromír Jágr's iconic number 68 this season. Jágr, however, isn't yet ready to accept the honor quite yet – saying he'll accept only after he hangs up his stick.

Honoring a legend

The Pittsburgh Penguins not only want to retire Jágr’s squad number – meaning that it would never be worn by somebody on the team again – but also plan to ceremoniously hang his shirt on the ceiling of the Penguins’ stadium, which is common practice for U.S hockey teams when commemorating club greats.

"I wanted to show him how much they love him in Pittsburgh," said former teammate and current radio analyst for the club, Bourque.

Jágr, who next month turns 51 and is remarkably still an active player, made 806 appearances for the Penguins and scored over 1,000 points for the team – the second-highest in the club’s history.

Still, he finds the idea of retiring his number a bit premature. “I haven’t retired yet. When I do, I will be in favor [of a ceremony]. Then we can talk about logistics and everything else,” Bourque quotes his ex-teammate as telling him.

A decorated past

Jágr dons the squad number of 68 to commemorate the 1968 Prague Spring, and also did so while playing for the Penguins. The Czech won several championships and accolades throughout the nineties with the Pennsylvania side, including two Stanley Cups (the most prestigious U.S. ice hockey award), three Art Ross Trophies, and nine National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star Games. 

For the Penguins, Jágr holds the record for scoring the highest amount of career points as a right wing in the club's history.

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Jágr is a household name in Czechia. He currently both owns, and plays for, the Kladno Knights (Rytíři) – a Central Bohemian team he played for in the 1980s. Following his departure from the Pittsburgh Penguins, he spent several years playing for the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Avangard Omsk (in Russia), the Florida Panthers, and others. He returned to Kladno in 2018.

Ice hockey fans will know that Jágr has the second-highest amount of points scored in NHL history. He also boasts the record for the most career points scored by a right wing – his position – as well as holding the accolade of scoring the most game-winning goals in his career.

In the Czech Republic, Jágr will forever be an icon for helping the country beat Russia in the 1998 Winter Olympics final. He also helped his team win the 2005 men’s ice hockey World Championships. He was voted as Czech sportsperson of the year a few months later. He has also won a record 12 Golden Hockey Sticks – an annual award given to the top-performing ice hockey player in Czechia.

Still playing, but how long for?

The end, however, could be sooner rather than later for Jágr. In late 2022, the star announced to journalists that “he was considering retirement,” and that he would need to "force" himself to play in an NHL alumni game with the Penguins. 

He made an appearance for the Kladno Knights in December, stepping in due to a player shortage. Recently, he scored a league goal to tie with renowned ice hockeyist Wayne Gretzky for total goals scored in all competitions (at 1,098), and will likely surpass this record before he hangs up his stick. 

When Jágr does finally retire, the Pittsburgh Penguins can commemorate the legendary player in proper fashion – but they will have to wait.

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