Florida Panthers

Jaromir Jagr lets out a not-so-surprising secret: He’s one of the all-time greats

Jaromir Jagr part of NHL's top 100 players in celebration of 100 years

The NHL will celebrate its 100 years this weekend at the All-Star festivities in Los Angeles and it should come as no surprise Jaromir Jagr will be at the party.
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The NHL will celebrate its 100 years this weekend at the All-Star festivities in Los Angeles and it should come as no surprise Jaromir Jagr will be at the party.

Jaromir Jagr let out a pretty well-known secret on Thursday: He’s one of the best players to ever grace the National Hockey League.

As part of the celebration of 100 years, the NHL will unveil the final 67 players of its top 100 at this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Los Angeles.

Jagr, in no real surprise, will be among those honored.

On Thursday, Jagr confirmed he would be traveling to Los Angeles on Friday and will join teammate Vincent Trocheck for the All-Star weekend.

While Trocheck will be on the ice playing, Jagr will be taking it all in as one of the best his game has seen.

Well, maybe.

As was the case last year, Jagr doesn’t seem too thrilled about the trip.

“It’s even tougher,” said Jagr, who was voted in as the captain of the Atlantic Division team for last year’s All-Star celebration in Nashville.

“I have to fly Friday, fly all the way back Monday for practice and then play Tuesday. I fly Friday at 7 in the morning.”

The league released the first 33 names of its ‘NHL 100’ team last month (from the early years through 1967) but will wait until Los Angeles to announce the modern players who make up the rest of the squad.

Jagr is expected to join the likes of former teammate Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and many others at what the league calls the “largest gathering of NHL legends” at the Microsoft Theater on Friday night.

Actor Jon Hamm will host the event.

Jagr will be one of a few active players — Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will certainly be part of the 100 — honored.

“It’s great for him, great for our franchise and great for the National Hockey League,” Florida coach Tom Rowe said.

“We’re trying to sell the game in South Florida and I can’t think of a better guy than him. He’s great with the fans. We have ‘Traveling Jagrs’ everywhere we go. That’s all positive stuff for our fanbase.

“I think it’s great the kids in our market get to watch him and see him. He usually has something funny to say to the kids who sit on our bench during warmups. He get it. He’s making hockey fans out of South Florida.”

Jagr, who is second on the NHL’s all-time scoring list behind Gretzky, said when he was selected to his first All-Star Game in 1992, he didn’t feel he deserved to be there.

“I was hoping I would get hurt before the All-Star Game so I didn’t have to go,” he said with a laugh.

Playing on the great Penguins teams of the early 1990s which won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and ‘92, Jagr said he felt like he didn’t belong among the greats at the All-Star game.

“I was voted in and was playing on the third or fourth line,” he said Thursday. “I was in the starting lineup for the All-Star Game and was so embarrassed to be there with those great players. I didn’t want to go. I felt shame.”

Jagr was a reluctant participant in last year’s All-Star weekend, saying he went only so he wouldn’t be suspended a game.

Once he got to Nashville, however, Jagr’s mood changed as he seemed to relish the moment and enjoy the experience — including having P.K. Subban dress up as him during the skills competition.

“That was the first time the NHL changed it to 3-on-3 to see what would happen,” Jagr said. “I think it was a good move by the NHL. It was a lot of fun, the fans saw a lot more goals than before, a lot of scoring chances.”

▪ The Panthers had a few new faces at Thursday’s morning skate with Jonathan Huberdeau (Achilles tendon) and Sasha Barkov (back) both participating.

Huberdeau is expected to be out until March; Barkov, team sources say, does not require surgery on his back and could return in the coming weeks.

Rowe, who has been mum on Barkov’s injury since it occurred late last month, says he’s done commenting on it.

“They look good but we don’t have any specific timeline,” Rowe said. “We’re optimistic but that’s the end of it; I’m not talking about Barkov or Huberdeau anymore. I’ve talked about it enough.”

FACEBOOK VIDEO: Tom Rowe’s morning skate presser via One Panther Parkway

▪ Nick Bjugstad (groin) and Alex Petrovic (ankle) are back in the lineup for Thursday’s game against the visiting Lightning.

“It’s obviously a big boost for us,” Rowe said. “They’re big bodies, I’m excited to play them.”

With Petrovic returning for the first time since November, Jakub Kindl and Dylan McIlrath are scratched.

THURSDAY: LIGHTNING AT PANTHERS

▪ When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

▪ TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.

▪ Series: Florida leads 63-51-10.

▪ Scouting report: Florida and Tampa Bay finished first and second in the Atlantic Division last season but much has changed this year. The Bolts snapped a three-game slide with an impressive win in Chicago on Tuesday yet still sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings — just one point removed from the Panthers who have dropped their past four.

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