COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wayne Gretzky received a royal send-off when he played his last NHL game at Madison Square Garden in 1999, receiving a standing ovation for more than 10 minutes as tears leaked from his eyes.
Ray Bourque hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head for the first time in his final NHL game.
Jaromir Jagr, on the other hand, wrapped up his 23-year NHL career this week without any fanfare, clearing waivers after an experiment with the Calgary Flames failed to gain traction.
But Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman is floating an idea that could give Jagr the farewell victory lap he deserves: invite him to play in the 2019 NHL All-Star game in San Jose.
“It would be really cool,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who grew up idolizing Jagr. “Let people show they appreciate what he did. Every player could wear No. 68. His career was really amazing.”
Pete DeBoer, who coached Jagr during the 2014-15 season with the New Jersey Devils, also backed Friedman’s proposal.
“That would be great,” the Sharks coach said. “I’m all for that — I think that’d be awesome.”
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Although Jagr’s NHL career ended anticlimactically, Hertl is confident that the 45-year old will receive a Gretzky-like send off when he does finally play his last pro hockey game. Jagr is hoping to suit up for his hometown team, the Kladno Knights, which he owns, in the Czech Extraliga Saturday.
The team is moving its game to a 7,500 seat venue in the city of Liberec to accommodate the growing number of fans who want to show their appreciation for the country’s top sports idol, who helped the Czech Republic earn a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
“Now people back home in Czech will get to enjoy him,” Hertl said. “I just read something that the stadium is already sold out because everyone wants to see him.
“He could probably go for president there. People love him.”
2. Controversy surrounding goaltender interference flared up again last week when Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid both had goals pulled off the scoreboard via video review.
During All-Star weekend, Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Hockey Operations Director Colin Campbell and a few general managers met to figure out a way to solve the problem, an initiative the Sharks are backing.
“I’m glad Toronto had a couple (goaltender interference calls) go against them because all of a sudden there’s major attention on it,” DeBoer joked.
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The Sharks coach is all too familiar with the flaws of video review and the ambiguity over goaltender interference. In a nine-day span in November, the Sharks came out on the wrong side of five video reviews, including a questionable goaltender interference call that cost them a point in Las Vegas on Nov. 24.
Logan Couture’s go-ahead goal got yanked off the board after video review showed that Joonas Donskoi’s skate made slight contact with that of Vegas Golden Knights goalie Malcolm Subban a few seconds before the puck flew into the night.
By the letter of the law, the referees got the call right. But anyone who knows how to use discretionary judgement would have upheld the goal.
At this point, the league is leaning toward asking officials to put more emphasis on what goaltender interference plays look like in real time as opposed freeze frame and sticking with calls on the ice in 50-50 situations. In theory, this would fix egregious mistakes on the ice while getting rid of the ticky-tacky rulings, such as Donskoi’s skate interference call in Vegas.
It would also force coaches to put more thought into whether they want to risk losing a timeout over an ambiguous challenge.
“Hopefully, there’s a better way. I don’t know exactly what that is,” DeBoer said. “I can tell you from a coaching perspective, watching video, it is dangerous. You can slow motion, stop, back up any play and really paint a whole different picture than what maybe it is live. It’s a dangerous slippery slope.
“It’s not easy, that’s the one thing I do know.”
3. Joe Thornton’s right knee injury might finally open the door for Danny O’Regan to make his splash with the Sharks.
Up to this point, most of O’Regan’s NHL minutes have been spent in the fourth line center position, which hasn’t exactly highlighted his skill set.
O’Regan, who won the AHL’s rookie of the year award last season, would be better served to play alongside other high-end skilled players who can accentuate his shiftiness, play-making skills and feel for the game.
After recording 154 points in 154 NCAA games and 80 points in 91 AHL games, O’Regan is ready to be a full-time NHL player.
If the Sharks don’t give him an opportunity to play with guys, such as Joonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney or Logan Couture, his talent will go to waste.