In a prequel to next Monday’s Winter Classic, the Rangers will face the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at Madison Square Garden, and with that comes former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr.
So what does No. 68 hope for in his first game at MSG since 2008?
“Hopefully a winning goal,” Jagr said. “That’s what you worry about. that’s what I care about. It’s a totally different Rangers than I played [against] the last time was seven, eight years ago. The defense wasn’t very organized 10 years ago. And now I see they play very good defense.”
Jagr, 39, was traded to the Rangers in 2004 for Anson Carter, and following the 2005 lockout, changed the organization from a bottom-dweller that over-spent on over-the-hill superstars to a playoff team.
“I cannot say one bad thing about Rangers,” Jagr said. “They were good to me, the city and organization — everybody. And there was the lockout and the Rangers didn’t make the playoffs for seven straight years and we had I would say an known team and nobody really gave us any credit, and with coach Tom Renney I thought we did a great job and too bad I got injured in the playoffs my first [full] year. I think we could [have gone] pretty far.”
How does he think the fans will react to his return? “Hopefully it’s not going to be as bad as Pittsburgh,” the Czech said. “It was hard there before, now it’s going to be crazier.” Jagr hasn’t played in Pittsburgh this season with the Flyers, who he signed a one-year deal with in the offseason, snubbing his former team the Penguins.
I don’t think that 2005-06 team would have done much in the playoffs even if Jagr stayed healthy, but boy was that a fun season. People thought the team would be a lottery team at best, but they shocked the world and finished with 100 points.
I don’t have tickets for the game tonight, but if I did, I wouldn’t boo Jagr, though some will most definitely give him the Eric Staal treatment. Remember, Jagr wanted to stay in New York after the 2008 season, but the organization had signed Scott Gomez and Chris Drury the summer before, and wanted to change the dynamic of the team.
With that said, I hope he has an awful night.