One of the stars of the day was Jaromir Jagr, who held an in-depth press conference alongside GM Paul Holmgren.
The biggest question, to no one’s surprise, was whether or not he thinks he can come back with the same quality of play as when he left the NHL in 2008.
But one thing Jagr brings to the table that can’t be counted in goals or assists is his veteran presence, the respect he garners from teammates, and his intense work ethic.
Jaromir’s days in Pittsburgh have cemented him as a future Hall of Famer – he’s one of the greatest offensive talents in league history.
But if you ask him, he wouldn’t have been able to do it without the veterans he found in his locker room.
“I had [advice] when I was younger, and I said it before – it was probably the best thing that happened to me when I was drafted by Pittsburgh. That I had a chance to play with such great players.”
What impressed him the most, however, was their work ethic.
“Not only great players, but hard-working guys. It was no accident that the Penguins in the early 90’s were the best team in the NHL,” he said. “If you would see all those guys, how they work after practices – Ulf Samuelsson, Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens, all those guys – they were competing with each other and I was trying to compete with them.
“That’s what put me at a different level.”
If you ask Paul Holmgren, Jagr’s drive and ethic may be even greater than those players who so impressed him as a rookie in Pittsburgh.
“I think his training regimen – what he does, we’ve only seen bits and pieces over the last few days – but it’s second to none,” Holmgren said. “Anything that he does off the ice is going to be looked at by our young players as ‘holy mackerel.’”
With up-and-coming young stars at his side in James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux, and newcomers Schenn, Simmonds and Voracek, Jaromir has an audience for his advice and example to rub off on.
And if trying to fight off his aging body isn’t motivation enough for Jaromir to give his all, the idea of one last Stanley Cup championship is.
“When I came in the league, I was 18 years old,” Jagr said. “This was the first time out of the house, I was a little bit homesick, and I wanted to go home after season – but we kept winning and winning and then we won the Stanley Cup.
“I didn’t appreciate what I won. I thought it was going to be like that every year.”
So with Jagr coming back fit, fired up and hungry, he’s going to give everyone in that locker room – old and young – an example to follow.
Whether he’ll put up the same numbers he did years ago is doubtful, but he’ll make sure that he squeezes every drop out of his teammates.