Jaromir Jagr demands dedication in the gym | Hockey | CBC Sports

Playoffs 2013Jaromir Jagr demands dedication in the gym

Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 | 06:21 PM

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Boston Bruins winger Jaromir Jagr works out alone on the ice before a first-round playoff game in May. (Brian Snyder/Reuters) Boston Bruins winger Jaromir Jagr works out alone on the ice before a first-round playoff game in May. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

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Jaromir Jagr played 15:43 in regulation in Game 3 to help the Boston Bruins defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime. However the 41-year-old wanted more hockey to play, which doesn't shock those familiar with his unique, but intense workout routine.
Two weeks after Jaromir Jagr was traded from the Washington Capitals to the New York Rangers, he arrived in Minnesota for the 2004 NHL All-Star Game.

"He asked me to see if Minnesota's trainers would let him use their gym," John Rosasco, the Rangers' vice-president of public relations and player recruitment, wrote by email. "They did and he was at the building long after every player was gone. First guy I have ever seen do that at All-Star. You know what those typically are for players."

On a day where Gregory Campbell is being celebrated (and deservedly so) for defending his post a full minute after his leg was broken by a slapshot, Jagr's contribution deserves its own praise.

The Hall-of-Famer-to-be played 15:43 in regulation of his team's 2-1 win in Game 3. He was well ahead of that pace in overtime, at 10:52 before Patrice Bergeron ended the game. As the night went later, he got better. One week ago, Jagr was struggling. But six days between the Eastern Conference semifinals and final was perfect for the 41-year-old, not that he'd be surprised.

"He'd walk around in a towel, flexing, saying, '40-years-old. I look good, eh boys?'" said a laughing Derek Settlemyre, head equipment manager for the Philadelphia Flyers, where Jagr played upon returning to the NHL in 2011-12.

He's worked hard at it.

You think you know...

John Dellapina is now the NHL's senior director of media relations. When Jagr was a Ranger, Dellapina covered the team for The New York Daily News.

"I remember dealing with Jags in Pittsburgh, you could barely get a word out of him," Dellapina said Thursday. "I hated the way he was portrayed as a prima donna; he works his ass off. I was told, 'You don't know the half of it, you should see what he does at night."

So, he went up to Jagr and asked about the late-evening workouts.

"He said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you can never write about it.' There were two reasons:  the first was, 'I've got something going for me here and I don't want let everyone in on it.' Number two, he didn't want to make a big deal about it. He didn't want to be seen as grandstanding."

"When he was here, most times he went to the gym in his building," Rosasco wrote. "He took in Petr Prucha in Prucha's rookie year. Prucha told me what Jags would do at night and said to me, 'While the rest of the NHL is sleeping, he is working.'"

"That was another place I tried to get to into," Dellapina said. "I was told it was like this goofy Spartan bachelor place. A television, one seat and gym equipment. He used it to sleep and work out."

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Upon Jagr's return from the KHL, Dellapina, in his current role, tipped off HBO's 24/7 cameras to the workout routine prior to the 2012 Winter Classic.

"We begged [Jagr] to let [HBO] film it," he said. "He wouldn't do it."

"The first time I found out [about the late-night routine], I arrived at the rink first thing in the morning...and saw this huge mess of Jagr's gear soaking wet on the ground. He's, uh, kind of a messy guy," Settlemyre said, and you can tell he's smiling at the memory. "It wouldn't be like our guys to leave that. So I asked him if he forgot to get his stuff washed. He said, 'Oh no buddy, that was last night. I came in around 11.'

"We had a key made for him. He would do double workouts, even after games."

'Jaromir Jagr hockey camp'

Settlemyre was responsible for making sure two important pieces of Jagr's routine were always available at home and on the road -- first, a wheel from a golf cart that was carved into a "heavy puck." Jagr used it for shooting drills and strengthening his wrist.

Then, there was his 30-pound weight vest.

"We took it everywhere. One night, when we won and he played well, I joked, 'Good thing you wore the weight vest during the game, eh Jags?' The other players all looked up, saying 'What?'

"We had all these young kids," Settlemyre added. "A handful of them joined him for the late night workouts. We called it the Jaromir Jagr hockey camp. They had to stop doing it, because it wore out some of the guys."

"I once asked him, 'What did you do as a kid?'" former Flyers teammate Scott Hartnell said Thursday. "He said that when he was 12 years old, he was doing sets of 100 squats."

Hartnell set career highs in goals (37) and points (67), while tying his personal assists mark (30) playing with Jagr and Claude Giroux. It was no accident.

"I did kind of screw around in practice, I like to have fun," he said. "Jagr didn't like that. He would say, 'It's time to work.' He believes that how you practice is how you play. He expected me to be dialed in...That was such a great season for me, and last year was such a disappointment."

Hartnell broke his foot three games into the lockout-shortened schedule and fell to 12 points in 32 games.

"I'm working out this summer with the mindset he gave me. I don't want a repeat."

'I have to do this'

When Jagr moved from Philadelphia to Dallas, the Stars were ready.

"He had a key," said one source who preferred not to be identified. "When you sign a guy like him, you let him do whatever he wants...For being a legend, he was great to work with."

Like the Flyers, who practise at a public rink in Voorhees, N.J., the Stars practise at a public rink in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. Jagr would be given a schedule indicating when the ice would be free, usually around 11 pm. There would be a zamboni flood.

Then it was all his.

After the lockout, members of the Stars' equipment staff stayed late for about a week to make sure his gear was set up and he was comfortable.

He'd skate anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour with the weight vest. Sometimes, there were additional weights on his skates. Once in awhile, he'd run, but it was mostly on-ice stickhandling and shooting.

When the Stars called up Czech forward Tomas Vincour, Jagr invited him to join. Rookie defenceman Brenden Dillon participated a couple of times.

The goal of all this is to condition the body for prime physical exertion at night. Here's a text from one veteran NHLer 12 minutes before Boston won.

"You happen to notice Jagr is flying in both overtimes. He always said he wished he could play two games. He has his legs now. Just takes him a game to get them. He will have a factor in this if Boston wins."

After the winner, he texted: "Jagr -- called it." (See, it's not just media that celebrates accurate predictions.)

Last Saturday, one hour after his team's victory in Game 1, Jagr was working out with a bungee cord outside the visitor's dressing room.

Dellapina, finished his work for the night, said, "Jags, go home."

"No," he answered. "I have to do this."

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