Player of the Month
The European Hockey.Net European Player of the Month is awarded to the player with the most oustanding performance over the course of the month
Nominations are collected at the end of each month, then a vote by the site's admin team decides the winner.
January 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
The winner for January 2005 is Jaromir Jagr of Russian team Avangard Omsk.
Kladno, about 30 kilometres west of Prague, is mainly known for its steel production. On a cold Tuesday morning in February people went to work as usually. No one then realised that day would bring forward something that would make the city and its inhabitants very proud.
Jaromir Jagr always belonged to the best hockey players of the Czechoslovakia in his age group. The son of a hotel-chain owner started skating at the age of three and found himself in the Czechoslovakian Extraliga as a 16-year old. "He was stronger and more technical than other guys of his age and size back then", David Schlegel, editor of esports.cz, remembers.
In his debut season for Kladno, a mediocre team at the time, he scored 18 points in 39 games. He made sure he was on the radar of the NHL scouts by delivering a fine performance at the European Junior Championships (the precursor of the current WJC18) by notching 12 points in just 5 games.
With the national team he formed a legendary trio that goes into the books as one of the best forward lines the Czechs ever had. Jagr had Robert Reichel and Robert 'Bobby' Holik along side him.
Back then Reichel was considered to become the best player out of those three. "Reichel was smaller and possesed a great technique even in 1990 World Championship, he was the brain of the young gun line," David Schlegel says. "Jagr needed more time, but he was remarkable as well."
The following year was the real break-through year for Jagr. He not only excelled in the Czechoslovakia league (59 points in 50 games), but also on the international level (World Championships and World Junior Championships). No wonder the Pittsburgh Penguins were ecstatic to draft him the following summer 5th overall.
What happened since is well known material. Jagr quickly adapted to living and playing in North America. Jiri Hrdina was a big help for Jagr in his first year in Pittsburgh and was therefore influential for Jagr to develop in one of the world's finest players of this and the previous decade.
As David Schlegel looks back at Jagr's career he feels the highlight was his goal in the quarter finals against the United States in the 1998 Olympics Games. "It was a crucial goal back then," he says. "It was his work and only his!" The goal virtually opened up the path to the gold medal for the Czechs.
With the NHL lock-out conflict starting there are a string of teams who are after Jagr's signature. But, unsure about the situation between the NHL and the NHLPA, Jagr decides to hold off and returns to the Czech Republic.
Home is where the heart is.
Jagr will play for his hometown team Kladno who are obviously delighted with the arrival of the mega star. "His return sparkles the Czech hockey scene," Schlegel knows. "Jagr is big business and hot property. Everywhere he plays he ensures a fully packed arena." But his presence was also influential for Czech hockey in general. "His return was also a major factor in increasing popularity of hockey in the Czech Republic." On the ice Jagr showns no signs of taking this lock-out as a 'paid holiday'. In 11 games he racks up no less than 28 points and saw the team climb up the table virtually locking a play-off spot.
But then there was the call from Russia. They didn't come with just a bag full of money, but also the opportunity to play in one of the strongest leagues in the world at this moment. An offer too tempting for Jagr to refuse and he signed for Avangard Omsk. He is said to be the highest-paid player in the Russian league, topping the $1.6 million salary of AK Bars Kazan- forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Avangard is sponsored in part by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who also owns English football club Chelsea.
The forward stated he unsure what to expect but forked out a nice deal with his agent that allowed him to leave Russia in case it would end up disappointing. "I want to try it, maybe I'll be back within a month," Sport-newspaper quoted Jagr as saying. "My Kladno fans should not be angry. I never promised to stay here the whole season."
Jagr is famous for wearing the number 68 in honor of the Prague Spring rebellion of 1968 in which both of his grandfathers were killed. Therefore a move to Russia surprised some. When told many Russians think he dislikes the country and therefore do not understands the move Jagr responds surprised. "Really, Russians think that? No, it's a misunderstanding, maybe because of my number. It's not true that I dislike Russia or Russians. Although so far I only visited Moscow."
But it didn't take long for the Omsk-people to embrace the new hero. Fans in the Siberian city have reportedly been gripped by 'Jagr-fever', with his no. 68 shirt selling like hot cakes
But also at home, in the Czech Republic, Jagr remained hot news. When he moved to Omsk, there were two Czech reporters shadowing him to report every move he made.
During games things went crescendo for Jagr. He averages over a point a game in a low scoring league. But the Czech hockey megastar is finding the training regime difficult at his new club. Jagr says he is unused to spending so much time in the gym and that he is being made to skip, something he hadn't done since elementary school. Jagr has made it no secret he prefers an environment in which he is not restricted to too much orders and holds his own freedom to do what he wants on the ice.
Throughout his career Jagr has won many prizes, but he recently won one that was still not present on his resume. He won the first ever IIHF European Club Championship. And, as all time greats always do, Jagr won Avangard Omsk the Cup by scoring the game winning goal in overtime against Finnish Kärpät Oulu.
In the 8 league games he played during January he notched 4 goals and 5 assists. It doesn't matter whether he is on the ice in either North America, Nagano (Japan), Czech Republic or Russia. Whenever #68 appears on the ice he will rack up points. Therefore it doesn't come to a surprise he would win the Eurohockey Player of the Month Award some day.
It's yet another missing trophy Jagr can add to his already so impressive resume!
- March 2007 - Petr Sykora
- February 2007 - Bernd Brückler
- January 2007 - Martin Prochazka
- December 2006 - Martin Kariya
- November 2006 - Pavel Brendl
- October 2006 - Kimmo Rintanen
- September 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- May 2006 - Kenny Jönsson
- April 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- March 2006 - Reto von Arx
- February 2006 - Nicklas Lidström
- January 2006 - Patrick Yetman
- December 2005 - Miroslav Hala
- November 2005 - Vasily Koshechkin
- October 2005 - Tony Salmelainen
- September 2005 - Sergei Zinoviev
- May 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- April 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- March 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- February 2005 - Marian Gaborik
- January 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- December 2004 - Tim Thomas
- November 2004 - Marian Hossa
- October 2004 - Jukka Voutilainen
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