EDMONTON – A group of very committed Jaromir Jagr fans gave the hockey legend a standing ovation during the morning skate at Rexall Place Sunday.
The Travelling Jagrs are in Edmonton to see the oldest player in the National Hockey League prepare to take on the Edmonton Oilers.
The group of die-hard fans said they don’t support a specific team, but rather the 43-year-old Czech born winger who first broke into the National Hockey League back in 1990.
The group of Albertans follow Jagr’s teams across the United States and Canada, wearing his signature mullet and various crested jerseys.
With an impressive career, the 43-year-old is likely headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame – but for now, his focus remains on the ice.
Jagr laughed as cheers rang out when he skated out of the tunnel. His team-mates banged their sticks on the ice, teasing the veteran.
“It was kind of embarrassing for me,” he said.
Defenceman Brian Campbell joked about Jagr’s fan following, “I think he might have done something to influence them. He might have paid them to come out here. We’re not sure yet.”
“It’s a good group of guys,” said Panthers centre Nick Bjugstad. “They seem like they have a lot of fun with it, so we laugh at it too.”
The Travelling Jagrs started cheering for number 68 four years ago. After winning a Sportselect bet, Albertan Tylor Keller took his friends to Las Vegas around Halloween.
“I’m like, ‘let’s go as Jagr!’ So four of us went as Jagr,” said Keller.
Jagr admitted it wouldn’t be hard to impersonate him.
“It’s easy to dress like me – just put on a mullet. I’ve got one here too,” he said as he pointed to the wig hanging in his stall.
When the group’s costumes were well-received, a tradition was born. The fans started taking their costumes to games and they quickly became an attraction of their own.
“It’s just fun for us to take pictures with the fans and be part of the energy of the game,” said Trevor Freeman.
So far the Travelling Jagrs have been to games in Florida, Boston, Calgary and Edmonton, cheering on their idol. Their next stop might be Vancouver.
“Every time he sees us in pre-game he has a little giggle,” said Freeman. “He knows we’re here.”
Jagr said he’ll do his best to make his fans proud when the Florida Panthers take on the Edmonton Oilers Sunday night.
“It’s pretty cool, no question about it. I see them only once a year – around here, Edmonton and Calgary. Hopefully I can score some goals for them,” he said.
So why Jagr? Fans say it comes down to skill, longevity and leadership.
“It’s cool to see him in a mentoring role now. He’s just so good still, to maintain that pace of play and see how players respond to him,” said Freeman.
The group hopes Jagr has a few more seasons left in the tank, because they’re not ready to give up their mullets just yet.
“We respect him as a pro. Look at what he’s doing now. He’s gotta keep it going, or else we don’t keep going,” said Keller. “We’re here to have fun. Life’s too short not to have fun.”