Sports

January 18, 2013

Jaromir Jagr becomes big draw for Dallas Stars

Newcomer Jaromir Jagr is the face of the Stars this season.

Wayne Gretzky is hockey in North America.

The specter of "The Great One" casts its shadow over every franchise of the NHL as only the game's best player can; his famous No. 99 is retired league-wide.

New Dallas Stars forward Jaromir Jagr possesses that same aura.

"I think, for a lot of the Europeans, he's their Wayne Gretzky," said Stars goalkeeper Kari Lehtonen of Finland. "You can imagine how Wayne is here, especially in Canada -- [Jagr's] that man there."

Jagr, a five-time Art Ross Trophy winner for the most points in the regular season, joined the Stars as a free agent in July and has immediately become the face of a franchise that has been searching for an identity.

Since the announcement of his arrival Jan. 11, fans have flocked to the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco to catch a glimpse of the two-time Stanley Cup-winning legend.

"We could tell Jags was on our team because we've never seen that many people," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "The coaches were doing their hair a little better when they got out there."

Gulutzan added that it wasn't just the fans who were star-struck by the newest Star.

"When you first saw him on the ice, I think all of our players were a little in awe and even the coaching staff, having a player of that caliber play for us," he said.

What Jagr brings to the Stars on the ice is 1,346 career NHL games and 1,653 points, which makes him eighth all-time in the NHL. His 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame still moves at a high speed, despite being a month shy of 41 years old, Gulutzan said.

"He's an unbelievably fit athlete and to see a big body like that and then to see the skill he possesses is a rare thing in this game," Gulutzan said.

"It's no wonder he's one of the best players to ever play the game.

The timing for Jagr to join the Stars couldn't have been any more perfect for the organization, going into the league's third lockout-affected season in the past 20 years. Jagr was in his prime in the 1994-1995, 48-game season and took home one of his five Art Ross trophies.

His impact can also be felt in the confidence he gives teammates by being a scoring threat every time he touches the puck.

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