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There’s a new professional hockey goal-scoring king, and his name is Jaromir Jagr.
While all eyes are on Alex Ovechkin and his quest to pass Wayne Gretzky’s NHL goal tally of 894, people sometimes forget, the Great One’s professional career started in the WHA. Gretzky spent the 1978-79 playing eight games for the Indianapolis Racers before being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers where he played another 72. The Oilers merged into the NHL for the 1979-80 season and the rest is history.
If you add up Wayne-O’s regular and post-season goals from his time in both the NHL and WHA you’ve got 1,098 career goals.
On Sunday, Jaromir Jagr scored career goal number 1,099.
That’s a fitting total to surpass the Great One, isn’t it?
Now it’s time for some asterisks, and there’s a pretty big one.
Jagr’s Goals Count The Same But Came Differently
Jagr is a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer. Period. End of discussion. The only reason he isn’t in yet is that he just flat-out refuses to hang up his skates.
Now, Jagr’s pro career has seen him play for much longer and in a few more leagues than Gretzky did. While there was some overlap, Jagr and Gretzky effectively played in two different eras.
Jagr had two years of pro experience in his Czechia (then Czechoslovakia) by the time he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also spent the 1994 lockout, playing a dozen games in Europe, 11 for Kladno, his hometown team, and one in Germany.
Fast forward to the next work stoppage — the 2004-05 season — and Jags high-tailed it back to Europe and played for Kladno and did a spell in what was then known as the Russian Superleague. After the NHL returned, Jagr played three more seasons for the New York Rangers, before going back to play three years in Russia in what was by that point called the KHL.
He returned to the NHL in 2011-12, only to play in Kladno during the 2012-13 lockout (So. Many, Lockouts).
Jagr’s final NHL games came with the Calgary Flames during the 2017-18 season, and since then he has played for the Kladno Knights, a team he now owns.
Who Ya Got?: Gretzky or Jagr?
This is a windy explanation just to say that Jagr spent a lot of time playing in Europe where the competition isn’t as good (I don’t care what the KHL tries to say, it’s not). Plus, his career has spanned well over 30 years, while Gretzky’s was confined to just two decades.
However, Jagr also played through the “Dead Puck” era, when scoring was at an all-time low, and league-leading goal totals were nowhere near where they were in Gretzky’s heyday.
Who is the greatest goal scorer of all time could be one of hockey’s best barroom debates. There are so many variables at play that a case can be made for Gretzky, Jagr, Howe, Ovechkin, and possibly even more.
Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Whoever you take though, the numbers don’t lie. No professional hockey player has ever scored more goals — thereby also performing more salutes — than the incomparable Jaromir Jagr.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle