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Translations by Tomas Jandik
I can have kids when I am forty (MF Dnes Interview) - 5-Jun-03


The famous giant just passes a couple of lovers at the beach of a pond. ďHeyĒ, the girl yells at him, ďwhatís the name of the town that starts CH?Ē Chomutov, he suggests quickly. But then the guy starts looking at him, he must uncover himÖ He did not. ďAnd a flower starting I, dude?Ē Ibisek, one of the most famous Czech hockey players, Jaromir Jagr, smiles. This doesnít happen to him very often, even though now it is really advantageous Ė Jaromir Jagr doesnít want to be recognized in the city of Trebon.

Officially, you are supposed to be in Switzerland, but now we are walking through the Trebon city spa { http://www.regiontrebonsko.cz/page.php?jazyk=en } , your runaway place for the second year in a row. Frankly, I am not surprised Ė a lovely town in the middle of all those ponds. Have you found something like that overseas as well?

You know, I have a specific relationship with America Ė I have to be there, because thatís where my job is. But as soon as I can go back home, I do. Immediately.

So itís a useless question to ask where you want to be once your career is overÖ

Yep, a totally useless question.

And what about putting down your anchor in Slovakia, the home country of your girlfriend Andrea Veresova.

Definitely not. Granted, itís a beautiful country, but Iím a Czech and Slovaks have a completely different nature from us.

Thatís what you found in the hockey locker rooms?

I donít want to dig too deep into that but, for example, Slovaks get offended far more often. Itís tough to make fun of them. On the other hand, we donít mind making fools out of ourselves, but we also know how to quick-wittedly return a joke, thatís how we grew up. Thatís why I used to like living in Pittsburgh so much Ė a lot of Czech teammates; you always had to be aware of where the next hit, the next joke will come fromÖ.

You are praising a nation famous for its ďbeer cultureĒ. Whatís your relationship with pubs?

I have never missed this stuff, because I donít drink alcohol, which is Ė I think Ė a great advantage. A lot of people say that two beers per day wonít do any harm, but I think they will. As late as in the 80ís the NHL players used to smoke, even Mario Lemieux, even these days 5-6 guys from my team snuff tobaccoÖBut I have never cared for that stuff much.

Me, Bush, and Havlova

When I found out that you are in the spa, I started to fantasize: parties, affairs, simply a good time.

Maybe thatís how spas looked before, but I donít pursue any affairs here. I came here to rest, I am here with my friends and I totally enjoy that nobody is pushing me anywhere. Nobody even knows we are here, and the cell phones are turned off.

I canít believe that you wouldnít even visit some disco.

Iím thirty-something.


There could be opportunities, but Iím not looking for activities like that. I prefer to be with my friends Ė and I enjoy myself more than at some disco.

Can you even walk somewhere just by yourself, without any control?

Thatís tough. When I get somewhere, I always have the feeling that people are watching me, even if they donít know me. And as soon as I make some mistake, the public finds out about that. Thatís why I give up for example even that disco.

Is it the same in Washington?

Actually, no. [Washington] is not a hockey town and just a few people know who Jagr is. Of course, there are our fans out there, but even they often donít know how I look like because they always see me with my helmet on. So I am relatively free.

So you feel good thereÖ

Iím not a big fan of that city. You have to understand, I am quite lazy and I appreciate when everything is within a reach from my home. But Washington is spread out, so I have to drive 30 minutes to the practice, and almost one hour to the games. I spend a lot of time on the road, and thatís a big loss.

Do you even know the city?

I live one hour away, so I in fact did not see much.

So how does it look like in your home town, Annapolis. Do you have some ďcity squareĒ there, where you can go for a cup of coffee with your neighbors?

Over there, every house lives ďsoloĒ. So Iím mainly with my mom, sometimes Andrea comes, and over the course of a year, a lot of friends come for a visit.

Andrea is just 23. Donít you go to parties at least with her?

Not much. I am not sure whether she loves those things, but you are right Ė at that age, you maybe would like to go out [more]. But as I say Ė I canít drive for 2 hours because of some party, when I have to play a game the next day. And now the only point is whether the girl would understand this. And if she doesnít, nothing can be done.

But you have known Andrea for a very long time. It seems that so far, she has adjusted.

Yes, even though it apparently is extremely difficult for her. I understand that. But I simply donít go to all those parties with singers and actors. And, fortunately, nobody pushes me to go there.

Still: have you ever met a personality that gave you butterflies in the stomach?

Hmm. I was lucky enough to be there when [former Czech President] Vaclav Havel came to Washington for the last time. He invited me to the White House, and I sat at the same table with him. On the one side, [former First Lady] Dagmar Havlova, on the other President Bush , with whom I talked about hockey for two hours.

Does he understand hockey?

Iíd say yes, he is interested in sports. He used to own a baseball team in Texas, and as far as what goes on in hockey, he knows that, too.

How did the President impress you?

Definitely great. But I had similar talks with even with Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who even called me at home once. I mentioned to one American magazine that Reagan was my role model, and that when [communists ruled here] I used to have his photo in my school grade book. So he called me to thank me.

Do you trust Bush the politician more after your personal meeting?

I donít mess up with things like that, because my opinions are formed from the outside. That is like when the fans speculate about what is happening in the locker room Ė they can guess whether the players hate each other, whether the coach does a poor job, but nobody from them is in that locker room and does not know that atmosphere. Thatís why I donít mess up with politics.

The Iraq war has ended just recently, and almost everybody has some opinion about that.

Personally, I donít like violence, but only time will tell whether that war was right or not. America has certain respect, it wants to keep it, and the fight against terrorism is maybe the toughest of all the fights. Nobody knows where the enemy is Ė he is everywhere and nowhere. So at this point apparently none of us will find out whether the main reason for the war was oil or terrorism.
Church lessons in Russian

Do you genuinely believe in God?

Yep, a lot. IÖ. am an Orthodox Christian {in one of the earlier articles, MF Dnes reported that Jagr was baptized 2 years ago. According to the last Census results, 0.2% of the citizens of the Czech Republic are Orthodox Christians. Incidentally, the other results: without any religious affiliation: 59%, Catholics: 27%, did not answer the question: 9%}

Can I ask why?

Iíd prefer not to talk about it much. But at some point in time I felt I needed it, my intuition told me that. And I also met people that I apparently was supposed to meet, so I ended up being an Orthodox [Christian]. Iím not contemplating whether it was or was not meant to be anymore Ė it simply is like that.

But the Orthodox [Christian] Church, thatís Greece, eastern Europe, and mainly RussiaÖ

I donít mind it at all. And least Iím brushing up on my Russian in the church Ė everybody learned the basics in the school during communist times, and those languages are quite similar. In our church, there is such an interesting group of people that believes in something, and their energy is so strong that a person feels really great there.

Arenít you tempted during your hockey holidays to maybe fly somewhere to India for a month, to turn yourself into a simple student who just listens and tries to find out something more about himself?

I have certainly ideas like that. But I know that such a school wouldnít help me with my hockey, because hockey is a fight. And what if I returned from India and after the first loss I told myself: Donít worry, everything is still so beautifulÖ In that case, I would be done at once.

Is sport the most important thing in your life so far?

If I had a family, maybe everything would change. But now I take hockey as my mission, and I donít want to blame myself one day that I did not do my maximum for it.

What a mission Ė to embarrass goaliesÖ

But thatís not the point at all. Every person in the world simply got something that he/she can excel at, and my take is that my hockey is what should give the people an opportunity to relax, an experience that they wonít forget. They tend to go to work, they are under a lot of stress there, and I want them to be able to say in the evening: Man, that was great what Jagr was doing. Thatís what I mean by the mission.

Were you surprised by the recent problems in the life of goaltender Dominik Hasek?

I canít comment on it, I wasnít there.

Come on, donít say you donít know about it Ė Hasek brutally beat up his opponent during a meaningless in-line hockey game. You are also quite a competitive type: do you sometimes have similar outbursts?

Iím not like Dominik, I donít compete in anything but hockey. On the ice, I am a professional, but elsewhere, I simply wonít be showing that I am better to anyone. Everything else is entertainment for me, and when Iím the worst at that, I actually enjoy the fact that the others enjoy themselves even more. I would understand the [intensive approach] in hockey, but not elsewhere.

Do you sometimes fight in hockey?

Not even there Ė if I were a boxer, then it would be different, but hockey is decided by goals and not by whether I beat up somebody. I have to be a smart player, because the emotions are against me. I can show it on my recent experience Ė I went to Prague to see kickbox show the other day. And for example, I love boxer Jirka Zak, because I can see what discipline he possesses: he will beat you without being hit. He doesnít freak out. Then you have boxers who voluntarily let the others hit them, hoping that they will be able to hit twice. But that already hurts. And I love elegant athletes.

Once more Dominik Hasek Ė one think I personally did not appreciate about him was his unwillingness to sign autographs.

But Iím not too surprised by that. Even in my case, signing autographs is the toughest thing.

But that also belongs to that mission of yours!

WellÖ Here in the Czech Republic I can still consider it OK, I feel that people feel a genuine joy. But in America, they sell those autographs and make profits on it. Whatever city I go to for a game, Iím there for 5 days and I know that Iíll be bothered five times by exactly the same twenty people, who will eventually sell everything. They donít know their limits Ė the more autographs they have, the better. They are not considering that even I want some privacy.

There is an open book on your hotel room pillow. Can you tell me the name?

ĎInterviews with the Godí, quite an interesting thing.

What is it about?

Itís about a gentleman who took a pencil one day, and he felt that the pencil writes by itself. So he started asking question and that pencil wrote to him that it is in fact the God. And thus he then recorded everything what that energy dictated to him.

You evidently believe in all those transcendental strange thingsÖ

I do. Every person has experience with something that canít be explained and I think that those phenomena are our helpers. Yep, according to me we have the God in ourselves, because the God is everything, one could say. And this energy guides us, gives us help.

So, for example, youíd buy what fortune tellers say?

Why wouldnít I? Personally, I donít seek their advice, but I recognize that somebody can have some extraordinary abilities. Itís like if I stood next to a man with a bad vision and heíd tell me that that tree over there doesnít exists because he doesnít see it. But I do see it! Every person has completely different abilities, and some simply have that sixth sense, instinct or the perception of that Godly energy. Even though I myself donít have this extra sense particularly trained.

You said somewhere that people are dissatisfied these days because they are constantly running after something: after glory, moneyÖ. And what about you? You are no longer interested whether your monthly earning statement has an extra hundred thousand dollars more or less?

In hockey, this is the performance measurement Ė the better paid I am, the more they appreciate me. They wouldnít pay me such salary if they did not think Iím good. And when the teams fight for a player and they offer him more and more Ė he must really know how to play. In addition, in the [NHL], everybody knows what the other make.

Yes, in your case thatís $11mil per year. Granted, pre-tax, but still Ė there must be tons of ďfriendsĒ who just try to take advantage of such a successful person. Or not?

It happens, but it is not that drastic to destroy me. Sure, I have already lent money that I have never seen again, because it disappeared. For example, somebody comes to me and says that they may take a house away from him or that they try to kill him, and it is not easy to just say that it is his problem. Sometimes it is not possible. Thatís why I occasionally prefer to hide somewhere, like Iím doing right now.

Is there some particular thing that youíd like to buy at this moment but it is too expensive for you.

I simply donít need expensive things. Material things satisfy for 14 days Ė you want a super car, you drive it for 2 weeks, and they you donít even know you have it.

Is it sincere, or would you like to add some extraordinary specimen to your collection of cars again?
Really, I donít wish for anything. I have already had Mercedes 600 line { http://www.mbusa.com/brand/container.jsp?/models/main.jsp&modelCode=CL600C :) } so I know that it does nothing for me. Trust me.

You yourself admitted that you tend to stay up long, and that you could calm down if you had a family. So how far with that are you now?

There are three types of people Ė some young ones start a family even though they donít want to; then you have those who fall in love, and then go for it full force during the first year of dating, but Iím already past those stages. Iím in the third group, the one that thinks a lot about everything.

What negatives do you see so far?

The main thing is that you have to feel that you are ready and you have to have a partner who feels the same way. Also, I really want to live in the Czech Republic, so I probably wonít marry an American, and at this point Iím with a Slovak. And there is one more problem Ė I want to play hockey in America for 10 more years, only after that Iíd possibly go back for one more season in Kladno. Iím not exaggerating Ė my dad always used to tell me that he was the strongest when he was 35-40.

But what about that family?

I simply donít want for my kids to speak just English when they are 5, not wanting to speak Czech at all, going to English-speaking school and having problems with their Czech once we come back.

And donít your parents want some grandchildren?

My sister has two kids, so there are no problems with that. And also Ė a guy can have kids for example when he is forty Ė then you can pass on far more experience compared to when you are twenty.

What would you like to go when you get past 40? Will you start some business, or will you enjoy your hockey savings.

I donít know what situation I will be in, maybe Iíll be dead. Even that can happen. So I donít deal with that. I try to think about things I can control now, and not about stupidities.

Tomas Jandik is the resident Czech on LetsGoPens.com and is a man who unifies all the goodies of the American dream - meaning, of course, being a Pitt graduate, a Razorback, and a Penguins fan.

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