The Florida Panthers are skating toward what could be the best record and best season in the franchise’s 23 years, but it is the unique engine driving that success that makes this Cats season one for the ages in the most wonderfully literal sense.
Jaromir Jagr is the oldest Panther ever to lace up for the club and Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov is the youngest, and this marks the first time in South Florida sports history a franchise’s oldest and youngest athletes have played concurrently — let alone elbow to elbow on the same line.
Jagr, third in all-time NHL goals, just turned a fatherly 44. Barkov is in his third season here but still is only a son-like 20.
“I think he played, like, 300 games before I was born,” Barkov says. “It’s kind of weird. But I try to learn every day from him.”
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In fact, Jagr already was in his fifth season when Barkov was born in 1995 and already had won two Stanley Cups when the third linemate, Jonathan Huberdeau, was born in ’93. Jagr is older than the two of them combined.
“I feel good. Why stop?” says Jagr, who hints he might play until age 50 but always with a small smile.
Jagr assisted Thursday on Barkov’s second goal of the night in the latest Cats win, and it got me to thinking:
Might these two be the most accomplished old (over 40) and young (21 and under) players we have had in Miami pro sports?
We’re about to list our Top 10 in each category. But first, each team’s oldest and youngest:
▪ Oldest: Quarterback Earl Morrall, 42 years, 146 days old when he played his last game in 1976.
▪ Youngest: Defensive tackle Mike Charles, 21 years, 23 days when he made his debut in 1983.
▪ Oldest: Power forward Juwan Howard, 40 years, 69 days when he made his final appearance in 2013.
▪ Youngest: Small forward Dorell Wright, 19 years, 65 days when he debuted in 2005. (Current rookie Justise Winslow is the only other Heat player to debut at age 19, but he was five months older.)
▪ Oldest: Pitcher Charlie Hough, 46 years, 202 days when he last took the mound in 1994.
▪ Youngest: Shortstop Edgar Renteria, 19 years, 276 days when he debuted in 1996.
▪ Oldest: Jagr, 44 years, 12 days as of Saturday’s game at Columbus.
▪ Youngest: Barkov, who was 18 years, 31 days when he made his debut in 2013.
Now, to the lists!
Most notable Miami athletes over 40
1. Earl Morrall: Dolphins quarterback in 1972-76, retiring at age 42. He was Bob Griese’s backup but was 13-1 as a starter and had a major hand in the 1972 Perfect Season, starting nine regular-season games and two in the playoffs before Griese returned.
2. Jaromir Jagr: Panthers right wing last season and this one, just turned 44. Leads Cats with 20 goals and 44 points. Shows no signs of stopping and could make up ground on Morrall if he leads a Stanley Cup run this season.
3. Charlie Hough: Marlins pitcher in 1993-94, ages 45-46. Hialeah High’s own had only a 14-25 record for really bad teams but will forever be the man who launched a franchise by throwing the first pitch in the first game, a fluttering knuckleball for a (generously called) strike.
4. Ichiro Suzuki: Marlins outfielder in 2015-16, ages 41-42. The Japanese legend is expected to make the team again as a reserve and is now only 65 MLB hits from 3,000.
5. Andre Dawson: Marlins outfielder in 1995-96, ages 40-41. “The Hawk” put the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career in Marlins colors.
6. Juwan Howard: Heat forward in 2010-13, turning 40 during his final season. Ended as a little-used reserve but won two championship rings.
7. Luis Gonzalez: Marlins outfielder in 2008, age 40. Mostly a starter who had 341 at-bats.
8. Ed Belfour: Panthers goaltender in 2006-07 season, age 41. Had a 2.77 goals-against average in 56 games.
9. Lenny Harris: Marlins utilityman in 2003-05, ending at age 40. Mostly a pinch-hitter who batted .314 his last season.
10. Tim Raines: Marlins outfielder in 2002, age 42. Ended in Miami with the final 89 at-bats of a solid career.
▪ Others: Marlins pitcher Bob McClure and Panthers’ Igor Larionov, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts.
Most notable Miami athletes 21 or under
1. Giancarlo Stanton: Marlins in 2010-11 at ages 20-21. Hit 22 home runs as a rookie and 34 more at 21.
2. Miguel Cabrera: Marlins in 2003-04 at ages 20-21. Budding star as a rookie, then hit 33 homers with 112 RBI as a 21-year-old.
3. Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov: Panthers in 2013-present, ages 18-20. Has scored 42 goals with 55 assists in less than three seasons.
4. Jose Fernandez: Marlins in 2013-14 at ages 20-21. Was 16-8 with an ERA under 2.40 before turning 22.
5. Nathan Horton: Panthers in 2003-07, ages 18-21. Scored 73 goals with 58 assists in three seasons before turning 22, despite missing one season to a strike.
6. Radek Dvorak: Panthers in 1995-99, ages 18-21. Scored 62 goals with 83 assists before turning 22.
7. Edgar Renteria: Marlins in 1996-98 at ages 19-21. Hit .309 and was NL Rookie of the Year at 19 and an All-Star by 21.
8. Tim Bowens: Dolphins in 1994 at 21. Started 15 games as a rookie defensive tackle to launch a stalwart career.
9. Dontrelle Willis: Marlins in 2003 at 21. Was 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA.
10. Michael Beasley: Heat in 2008-10 at ages 20-21. Flamed out later, yes, but had a very promising first two seasons, playing in 159 games with 97 starts.
▪ Others: Dolphins’ Troy Vincent, Heat’s Winslow, Dorell Wright and Daequan Cook, and Panthers’ Michael Frolic, Rob Niedermayer, Ed Jovanovski, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad, Stephen Weiss, Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Parrish and Peter Worrell.
Finally, a shout-out to Willie Long of the old ABA Floridians (nee Miami Floridians), a 6-8 rookie forward who averaged 11.7 points in the team’s final season before folding, 1971-72. He was 21. He never went on to stardom, but you could argue he was the first promising star 21 or younger that Miami had in pro sports.
We didn’t forget you, Willie.
Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at miamiherald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.