New York Rangers v Boston Bruins - Game Five

As human beings, we admire when others have exceptional work ethics, and so we should. Sloth is the enemy, and those who put their heart and soul into what they do should be celebrated. That group of people includes the great Jaromir Jagr, one of the most hard-working supremely gifted humans in hockey. There’s a reason he’s still an effective hockey player at age 41.

Yesterday Elliotte Friedman of CBC wrote about Jagr and his aforementioned admirable work ethic, which shared some of the details about his regimen, which includes extra on-ice workouts with a weight vest…after actual games have finished. He uses a heavy puck, and occasionally weights his skates to make his muscles work harder. His place in Pittsburgh was rumoured to good for two things: sleeping and working out. Petr Prucha, who stayed with him for awhile, said “While the NHL is sleeping, he is working.”

Kudos, kudos, kudos. It’s obviously worked and been effective for him. He’s had a tremendous hockey career.

But permit me the question, or at the very least hear me out: is it too much? Is he overdoing it right now? (Keep in mind, I’m speculating. Hypothesizing. Blogging, if you will.)

I can’t help but think about the Clint Malarchuk short documentary where he talks about his OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and the OCD of some athletes. He talks about Larry Bird and how he wouldn’t go to bed until he hit a hundred jump shots that didn’t just not touch the rim, but barely touched net on the way through. He talks about using your OCD to make you better, and that’s all well and good. But there has to be some limits to what’s beneficial, doesn’t there?

Over-training is a thing. It can wear you down, sap your energy, and leave your capacity for physical exertion diminished.

Jaromir Jagr is 41 years old, and after playing in a five-period double-overtime playoff game in the Eastern Conference Final the other night – one in which he played a big part in ending, I acknowledge – he apparently went back on the ice with his weight vest to burn his legs some more. (Part of me wonders if he doesn’t just like avoiding the media, but let’s just ignore that angle for now.) This is, again, what we consider awe-inspiring, amazing, and admirable, because it is. Most of us could never put ourselves through hell, come out the other side, then convince ourselves to trek back down into the sulfur fires for more punishment.

But is that blinding us to the reality that it’s probably not that smart to do at this point of the NHL season?

Of course, now that I’m writing this, he’ll score three and two for five tonight (which would be fine by me, I’m not anti-Jagr, I’m just going for a mental walk here), but I’m even looking to earlier in the post-season, back to the start of playoffs, and wondering if it’s really been beneficial to go at training like he has. He has zero goals and seven assists, good for 8th on his team in points this post-season. He always looks dangerous, he’s made some nice passes, but I can’t help but think that rest and sleep for his slightly older legs wouldn’t help him have more pop night-in night-out than going out after games and doing more work.

Guys ride the bike after the game to flush the lactic acid from their legs, which can leave you stiff, sore, and dead-legged the next day if you just finish the game, shower and leave. They cold tub for the same reason. No resistance, get things moving, flush ‘em out and be on your way (speaking of resistance, if an older guy is going to do extra-training, shouldn’t it better more fast-twitch stuff than heavy weights? Anyway, that’s not the point). Maybe Jagr is doing that too, but if that’s the case it still just seems like a lot to ask of your body to me.

I know it’s the only way he’s ever known, and I know it’s jaw-dropping that he’s that committed to his fitness. I also think it’s fair to wonder if he isn’t doing too much right now. One thing we know for sure is that he’s too revered, too respected and too successful for anyone to ever suggest it to him, so he’s going to keep on the path he’s travelling.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but Jaromir Jagr hasn’t scored in 15 playoff games, so I think it’s fair to wonder if things aren’t maybe possibly moving a little teensy-tiny bit towards the busted side.