The answer came in December of Jagr’s rookie season when Pittsburgh traded for vagabond defenseman Jiri Hrdina. He was from the Czech Republic. He had trotted the globe playing hockey until finally reaching the NHL when he was 30.
“Hrdina came in and really helped Jaromir take his game to another level,” McGuire said. “It allowed Jaromir to get more and more comfortable.”
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992. Jagr’s adjustment was a large part of it.
In 1991, Hrdina told the Globe, “It all depends on what kind of personality you have. Some guys don’t talk too much at home, so they have a much harder time adjusting than Jaromir because he’s an outspoken guy. He’s always joking around. It really helps because the guys see he’s trying to learn the language and adjust and fit in.
“The language barrier can be tough because sometimes you don’t understand what the coach wants from you and it makes it much more difficult to do those things on the ice. And you miss your friends and your family, and those things together sometimes are tough. But he’s done a great job.”
In 11 seasons with the Penguins, Jagr would watch the demographics of the locker room change so drastically that he would joke, “I’m glad to have a lot of Czechs here, but eight is too many. We should have a four-Czech maximum.”
But he became to them what Hrdina was to him. In the dusk of his career, he has become a similar figure to Krejci.
“It’s a good balance right there,” said Julien. “But when you look up at people . . . I always said I was a big fan of Bobby Orr, and to have Bobby walk into our office just to talk means a lot.
“Same thing goes for David with Jags right now. To have him in our dressing room and to look at him sitting near him and getting a chance to play with him means a lot. I think it’s certainly had some sort of an impact on him.
Krejci steps it up in the playoffs
David Krejci, the NHL’s leading scorer this postseason, has made it a habit of increasing his scoring production following the regular season. His point-per-game averages in each of his playoff years with the Bruins:
|2007-08||0.48||0.71 (7 games)|
|2008-09||0.89||0.73 (11 games)|
|2009-10||0.66||0.89 (9 games)|
|2010-11||0.83||0.92 (25 games)|
|2011-12||0.78||0.43 (7 games)|
|2012-13||0.70||1.31 (16 games)|
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.