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A hockey life: Older, wiser Jaromir Jagr continues to live his dream 05.28.13 at 11:15 am ET
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Jaromir Jagr will try to help the Bruins knock off his original team, the Penguins, and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. (AP)

Hours after the Bruins’ 5-2 victory over the Rangers last Sunday, the TD Garden sat still and empty.

The boisterous crowd had long since departed after Boston took care of business, holding serve on home ice, supplying the team with a 2-0 series lead in its Stanley Cup playoff conference semifinal series. The players and coaches trickled steadily out of the building, the janitorial crew had finished cleaning. Hours after the final whistle, Jaromir Jagr returned, alone, to the ice.

“Hockey is who he is,” said Mark Recchi, Jagr’s former Penguins teammate. Last seen in a Bruins sweater hoisting the Stanley Cup, Recchi now is a hockey operations advisor with the Stars, the team that dealt Jagr to the Bruins. “That’s his life. He’s passionate about it, he works hard at it, and he still wants to be a great player. He does whatever it takes to stay at that level.”

In front of 17,565 empty golden seats, the 41-year-old Jagr skated. Using every inch of his 6-foot-3, 240 pound frame, the forward from Kladno pushed himself, feeling the burn in his thickly muscled thighs. Living over 3,900 miles from his family in the Czech Republic, Jagr needed to be back on the ice, back home. The man with such phenomenal balance on skates then skated some more.

“This is playoffs,” reminded Jagr. “Any player will find out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the first, second line or third. It’s tight checking. It’s harder to score.”

Jagr began his NHL career with the Penguins but now is looking to end Pittsburgh’s season. His playoff resume includes 78 playoff goals, though none have come recently. Amidst the longest scoring drought of his career, Jagr has not scored in 21 consecutive playoff games (his last playoff goal came against the Penguins in 2012). Though he has accumulated 193 playoff points over the course of his career, Jagr has registered just four points in 12 games during the Bruins’ 2013 postseason run.

“It’s harder to score for me, and it’s harder to score for anybody else,” he said. “Unless you the best player in the world.”

Jagr would know better than most, considering, once upon a time, he was the best in the world.

Just like Jagr can’t fathom the idea of leaving the rink after a game (he is on record stating his desire for the NHL to begin playing doubleheaders), the concept of life without hockey is far removed from his mind. The offensive dervish entered the National Hockey League at the age of 18. Since then, every imaginable part of his life — and the world — has changed. His identity as a hockey player has evolved over the past 23 years, but his profession remains unchanged. Jaromir Jagr, all these years later, is still a hockey player.

“I don’t think he’ll ever change,” said Craig Patrick, general manager of the Penguins from 1989-2006. “He was built this way.”

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