When Jaromir Jagr left Czechoslovakia for the NHL and Pittsburgh Penguins, he wasn’t scared of living in a completely new country. Jaromir Jagr had been a big fan of the United States since forever.
A year before he got drafted by the Penguins, in 1989, it was Czechoslovakia’s revolution. That allowed him to fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL. He perhaps would’ve made it anyways, but it wouldn’t have been without struggle.
In fact, when he attended the NHL draft, it was the first time a Czechoslovakian player did so without a blessing from the government. Jagr didn’t feel strong for the Soviet Union, and neither did Ronald Reagan.
He was the 40th president of the United States, and he identified the Soviet Union as the ”evil empire.” And so did Jagr and all of his family, especially since Jaromir’s grandfather died in 1968, during the days of the Czechoslovakian freedom movement known as the Prague Spring. That’s also the reason Jagr plays with No. 68 on his back.
As a young kid growing up, long before he signed his first NHL contract, Jagr was in school, and everything he was taught was how bad the US were, how they were the constant enemy. Jagr disagreed, so he kept a photograph of Ronald Reagan in his grade book. Jagr had to sneak at the picture because if he were caught with it, he would get into trouble.
One day, a teacher saw the photograph as Jagr got graded, and Jagr was asked to throw it away. He didn’t. He kept on hiding it in the grades book. He did so until he graduated.
When he played for Pittsburgh, he had American flags in his bedroom, and he would never forgive the Soviet Union for what they did against Czechoslovakia.
“In school we were always taught the Soviet doctrine,” Jagr said. “The U.S.A. was bad and wanted war. Russia was our friend and was preventing the United States from bombing us. Even my father didn’t tell me the truth, because he was afraid I’d say something in school that would get us into trouble. But my grandmother, she told me the truth.”
Source: Sports Illustrated