MONTREAL – More than five months after Jaromir Jagr was named Best Forward at the 2011 IIHF World Championship, the award was finally handed over to him. IIHF Director Gion Veraguth chased down the Czech prior to Wednesday’s NHL game in Montreal.
This story tells how challenging it can be to hand over awards to players after major championships, when teams and players head home as soon as possible.
The IIHF Best Player Awards (goaltender, defenseman, forward), a tradition that goes back to 1954, is presented by the championship directorate and the three players who were recognized immediately following the gold medal game in Bratislava, Slovakia on May 15 were: G Viktor Fasth, Sweden, D Alex Pietrangelo, Canada and F Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic.
Due to logistical reasons (mostly early departure from venue), the IIHF was not able to present any of the three awards. Fasth was inconsolable after conceding five third-period goals in the gold medal game against Finland, Pietrangelo left Slovakia after Canada’s quarter-final loss some days earlier, while Jagr headed home to Kladno after the Czech Republic’s splendid 7-4 bronze medal game win against Russia earlier on final day.
So the chase began. Fasth was given his award on August 23
, when IIHF Event Director Hannes Ederer was on a site visit in Stockholm for the 2012 Worlds and Fasth had just concluded a practice with his club AIK at the Hovet stadium, next door to the Ericsson Globe Arena.
Jaromir Jagr was the second of the troika to get his award. IIHF Director Gion Veraguth was on assignment in Montreal and it happened to coincide with a visit of Jagr’s Philadelphia Flyers in Montreal for a game against the Canadiens on Wednesday.
Mr. Veraguth made sure to wait outside the Flyers locker room at the Bell Centre after the Flyers’ morning skate. Jagr was happily surprised and posed for a photo with the IIHF representative.
After the presentation, the ever jolly and also confident Jagr commented:
"They should have just given me the award before the World Championship, it would have saved the IIHF a trip."
The 2011 World Championship was the start of a “third career” for the 39-year old winger. After a very successful tournament in Bratislava, where Jagr led the first Czech line, collected five goals and four assists in nine games and where he looked like a keen 25-year old, he received offers from NHL clubs after three seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
He opted to sign with Philadelphia which became Jagr’s fourth NHL team after Pittsburgh, Washington and NY Rangers.
Jagr scored his first two goals of the 2011-12 season last Monday when he got a pair against Toronto and he also opened the scoring in the first period in Montreal on Wednesday. But that was it for the Flyers as the Canadiens scored five unanswered goals for a much needed 5-1 victory.
As a bit of irony, compatriot Tomas Plekanec is Montreal’s first-line center and who Jagr connected so well with in Bratislava five months ago. While Jagr had nine points for the Czechs, Plekanec collected ten points (6+4) in only eight games. Jagr and Plekanec was the superior one-two punch of the championship.
Jaromir Jagr is one of the most accomplished players in international hockey. He is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won Olympic gold (1998), the IIHF World Championship (2005, 2010) and the Stanley Cup (1991, 1992).
Jagr has been selected to the World Championship All-Star Team on three occasions (2004, 2005 and 2011), but last spring was the first time he was named Best Forward. In 60 World Championship games, he has an amazing 58 points and 20 points in 23 Olympic games.
The Czech is probably the best European forward to play in the NHL. He has been named as the NHL’s best player once (Hart Trophy in 1999) and he is a five-time recipient of the Art Ross Trophy (the league’s top scorer). Only Wayne Gretzky (10), Mario Lemieux (6) and Gordie Howe (6) have more. By IIHF.com staff
FOOTNOTE: The very first Directorate Best Player Awards in 1954 featured: G. Don Lockhart (CAN), D. Lars Björn (SWE), F. Vsevolod Bobrov (URS). Record recipients are Vyacheslav Fetisov (URS) and Jiri Holecek (TCH) who were named Best Defenceman and Best Goaltender, respectively, on five occasions.