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Pens Push: Linking back to #JagrWatch


Greetings from the Garden State, dear readers. Why in New Jersey, you ask? Well, the Flyers’ practice facility is located in Voorhees, and I’m about five miles away on this find Easter Sunday evening. Officially, a first-round playoff “bloodbath” – Scott Hartnell’s word choice, not mine – between the Penguins and Flyers starts Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center; but I’ll be all over the Flyers’ end of things from Monday until then.

Not that anybody back home needs any reason to be more ready for the sixth playoff version of the Commonwealth Cold War  (more on that later), I thought this a good opportunity to remind people of the wild events from last spring and summer. You remember #JagrWatch – the saga that helped boost the Twitter audience for this reporter and fellow Trib Total Media colleague Josh Yohe, and one of the strangest stories I’ve covered in my 17 years in this beautiful business. A collection of links that should take you back:


= From May 11, 2011: The Trib learns the Pens would welcome a return by Jaromir Jagr… for a golf outing:

= From May 16, 2001: Jagr keeps talking sweet on a possible return to the Penguins:

= From June 20, 2011: The Trib is tipped off that Jagr has reached out to the Penguins about a return… for actual hockey:

= From June 21, 2011: Jagr’s agent insists legacy is on his clients mind:

= From June 22, 2011: Jagr’s agent says his client “loves that city”:

= Also from June 22, 2011: Columnist Dejan Kovacevic chimes in on what Jagr and Pens need to do:

= From June 23, 2011: Josh reports that it’s time to make a deal:

= From June 26, 2011: Dejan says both sides need to make concessions to get deal done:

= From June 29, 2011: GM Ray Shero says Penguins would like Jagr to “finish his career here”:

= From June 30, 2011: Nobody knows where Jagr is, but word at Mario Lemieux’s golf tournament is that some people believe a deal between Jagr and his old club is in place:

= From July 1, 2011: Jagr’s agent says No. 68’s “hearts is in Pittsburgh”:

= Also from July 1, 2012: Dejan’s brilliant, hysterical letter from Lemieux to Jagr:

= From July 2, 2011: The decision that shocked, well, just about everybody and nobody at the same time:

= Also, and finally, from July 2, 2011: Dejan asks, ‘The Flyers, really?’:


Oh, the memories from all of the reporting that went into those stories, columns, etc. At one point I remember being on the phone at 2 a.m. with a source while awaiting word from Josh, who was at Pittsburgh International Airport with Penguins fans awaiting Jagr, and only hours later hearing from sources within the Penguins organization that Jagr’s agent couldn’t be reached by phone – only to learn that he was actually taking calls from the funny boys (that’s a compliment, fellas) at The Pens Blog.

I don’t remember who coined #JagrWatch … really. I just remember it trending within hours. I also remember the surreal emotional swings by a fan base that so desperately wanted a former hero to return, mostly so that they could seemingly make peace with him.

Finally, I remember talking with somebody very close to Lemieux after Jagr signed with the Flyers, and that somebody telling me that Jagr had just eviscerated his Penguins legacy.

Here’s the thing, all these months later, based off what I’ve heard since: I don’t believe that.

I don’t believe Lemieux was all that bothered by Jagr’s decision.

I also don’t believe that Shero thought Jagr could hold up for a whole season and be productive, which was a fair concern at the time.

I know Dan Bylsma thought Jagr could be a power-play force for the Penguins.

I’ve heard that Jagr did not believe the Penguins had a spot for him, and that he remains eager for a fences-mending moment with the people of city where he still owns a house.

It’s for all those reasons that I will write now words that seemed impossible to contemplate on the afternoon of July 1, 2011: Don’t rule out a reunion and a number retirement ceremony. If #JagrWatch proved anything it was to never say never, and that people back home are more than willing to forgive, though maybe never forget.

Why do I insist on calling Pens-Flyers the Commonwealth Cold War when there is actual engagement between the rivals, unlike the actual Cold War? Well, back when Joe Starkey and I coined the phrase in 2009, we were thinking more of the link between the words Cold and Ice, as in ice hockey. So, yes, maybe Commonwealth Civil War would make more sense, but I think of the word Civil and I just can’t use it when describing Pens-Flyers. So, humor me, eh?




Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.


  1. Jandy says:

    Sorry, Rob, no way will I let Jagr back in my heart to make his peace. This was his chance, and he blew it. Not only in signing with the Flyers, but in playing everyone for a fool with his game.
    This time, it’s GAME OVER.

  2. Joe says:

    I totally get the frustration and anger over the Jagr decision. I personally was devastated not so much because i thought Jagr was a big acquisition but it would be a healing process. Jagr has done a lot for the city of Pittsburgh and was a major reason the Pens won 2 cups in the 90’s. He also put up unbelievable numbers during his time with the Pens. As much as i want to hate him i cannot forget what he has done. If the opportunity ever comes up for a reunion i would be all for it.

  3. Dave G in Liberty Township, OH says:

    Jagr felt that Philly needed him to be a leader.

    The Pens are awash with superior talent and great leadership, and we all remember what happens to Jagr’s ego when he isn’t ‘the man.’

    Had the Pens signed him instead, he would never have been the same player here as he’s been for the Flyers this season.

    Very much looking forward to Jagr “Dying Alive, Part II” these next couple of weeks.

  4. Josh says:

    On July 1, 2011, I swore off my love for Jaromir forever. I was done. It was the last straw. But for some reason, I can’t help but love the guy. He’s like the Pirates… no matter how many times he pulls some really dumb stunt, I still come back.

  5. Rick says:

    Lets talk first round playoffs, and the Pens going to sleep after the first period!

    Doggone it, I thought we had it beat when we went up 3-0 in the first. No way would we repeat the previous two losses after going up 2-0 in ease game.

    I was wrong, and saddened. We will lose this series unless we wake up and play all 3 periods, and start playing better defense.

    Won’t blame the refs, though the

  6. CC says:

    Jagr, Free to go……..where ever! The team made it clear!

  7. David says:

    it seems bad, believe me it isn’t as bad as it seems, … or is it! well I still feel we will advance to round 2 though we have paved a hard path to it, … and with that being said, I predicted at the start of the playoffs that it would be Florida and St. Louis in the cup, with the Blues taking it in 4…… love my Pens but we are not Stanley Cup worthy…..

  8. David says:

    …….oh, and can we stop talking about Jagr, he left the Pens a-looooooong time ago, and so what he went to the Flyers, he wanted to play, not get stuck on the 3rd or 4th line and not garanteed playing time, I for one can respect that, he wants to earn his money, not sit and wait for wellfare checks…… he was great while he was here, now he has moved on, and so has the Pens, and for those who carry animosity from one year to the next over a former player just because he left is only serving a selfserving emotion……. Get Over It…………..

  9. David says:

    hey guys, we will win the series…. trust me on that….. wait a minutes, what was that again…. flyers have the lead in game 3!….. oh. hey guys, don’t quote me on that ……

  10. Deja View says:

    Are there any plans for a #PenguinsPlayoffWatch?
    I’m still waiting for the Penguins show up at a playoff game.

  11. Heathcliff says:

    I think the Martin/Michalek signings unfortunately will weigh more damaging than the brilliant steal of Neal by Shero. We are stuck with them, like we are stuck with a sometimes really good goalie thats paid like he is Hasek. Not sure of the love affair the organization and media has with Fleury, and why? Time to break up the band?

  12. David says:

    this was as embarrassing as a loss could get, what did the Penguins make the playoffs for, to be in a brawl ….. if i were bylsma, those who took time off the clock to partake in these stupid fights, ( that the NHL ) Loves to see……… would have been benched if they weren’t ejected, I know its a game of alot of emotion, but when you know your a s s is being owned and schooled, you have to show some ( ALOT ) OF DISCIPLINE…… CAN WE SAY 4IN-OUT!////////

  13. Paul says:

    Hopefully the Flyers will put them out of their misery in 4. Crosby’s actions during the game, and comments after, were pathetic. Maybe Mike Milbury isn’t so dumb. Neal and Asham embarressed Mario, and that’s a no-no. I can understand Asham, but what was Neal thinking?Pens looked and acted like a bunch of whining, crying, smart-ass kids. After hating the Flyers for 40 years, this Pens team is making me like them.

  14. Fred says:

    I have spoken with Jagr as a member of the Capitals team. yes I did like Jagr when he played for the Pens. Being of the same ethivc heritage it made it even more desirable to root for him. As desparate as he was to get back to the NHL and his statements to the organization and fans would have easily forgave him for his antics as a prviously player. He most recent actions this year may come from greed to need for more respect but lets face it the offer the Pens made him was for millions of dollars. He blew a lot of his savings on gambling. In some ways one should feel sorry for him because he seems like he has mental issues. It is very hard though to forget when the organization and the previous all star teams have offered olive branches to accept him back to celebrity golf tournements. Although he has been a big part of the organization his antics should make the then to erase him from the murel painted outside the locker room. Mario had done so much for him. It is like an ungratful spoiled child that need to be in therapy.

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