Hurting Jagr steps up

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

You never know what to expect from Jaromir Jagr.

Sometimes the enigmatic Czech can float and sulk for weeks on end.

At other times, he can play with flair and resolve and, in the process, lead his team.

In the world championship, Team Czech Republic had the benefit of the latter version.

Jagr continued to play despite suffering a broken finger in the round-robin stage of the world championship, thereby providing an inspiration to his teammates.

"We all knew he was going through with a broken finger," Czech forward Vaclav Varada said after helping his team beat Canada 3-0 to capture the gold medal. "It's not easy to play through it, and yet he was still making plays and getting points.

"If he had quit on us before the U.S. game or the Belarus game, we would have been down and maybe we would not be here right now. He stepped up. He sucked it up and made a difference."

This was certainly a different Czech team than the 2004 edition which was upset by Team USA in Prague and was booed off the ice by its hometown fans.

There was little evidence Jagr was playing hurt last night. He played physically and helped set up the all-important first goal.

"I couldn't shoot," he said. "I could handle the puck, but not shoot. And I didn't try to shoot. I tried to concentrate on just getting the puck to other guys.

"Canada knew it. When I was on the power play, they played very smart and covered everybody else, making me shoot to the other side."

Despite Jagr's heroics, Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur felt Canada had not been as far out of the game as the 3-0 score might indicate.

The Czechs did what they needed to do, he said, but they certainly did not overwhelm the Canadians.

"They didn't do much," he said. "They had a few good chances here and there, but they sat back.

"European players are supposed to be an exciting offensive team. We didn't see that from the Czechs. They just sat back, even with the best players in the world. They beat us like the New Jersey Devils beat other teams to win the Stanley Cup."

With the Czech victory last night, Jagr and Jiri Slegr qualified as triple-gold winners, having won an Olympic gold, a world championship and the Stanley Cup.

"Hopefully, this is the last tournament medal for me," Jagr said.

"I am glad, I wanted it. But I'd rather be in the NHL playoffs. Hopefully, the NHL will start and I can play for the Rangers."


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