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Madden: Jagr story boost for the media

Saturday, July 07, 2001

Jaromir Jagr's departure from Pittsburgh has been dragged out way too long as far as the public is concerned. But, as far as the media is concerned, it could never drag on long enough.

When the Pirates stink, when Steelers training camp is still a couple of weeks away and when there just aren't enough literate NASCAR drivers to do interviews with, the Jagr trade saga is a godsend. And, of course, it's a daily headline: RANGERS ARE FRONT-RUNNERS FOR JAGR. STARS MIGHT WANT JAGR. KINGS COULD ENTER JAGR DERBY. ALIEN PROSTITUTE TO HAVE JAGR'S BABY. (I got that last one from Weekly World News.)

Slap a story under one of those headlines, you've got the front page of a sports section. The story might offer nothing new, but then, neither does the one under PIRATES LOSE AGAIN.

Jagr ultimately will be traded to the New York Rangers. That was determined the minute the Penguins decided to accommodate Jagr's desire to leave. But here's how the rest of the story might go:

July 7 -- Following his trend of "letting things slip" first established on my talk show, Mario Lemieux addresses the Jagr situation at a celebrity golf tournament: "Maybe we'll trade him to the Rangers. Maybe we'll trade him to Los Angeles. The important thing is to get that whiny prima donna out of Pittsburgh as quick as possible. My kid, Austin, acts more mature. Wait, did I say that out loud?"

July 20 -- Bally's Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas announces groundbreaking for a new Jagr-themed casino. Employees will be surly and miserable for no discernible reason. When gamblers lose, they will be encouraged to blame the media. Dealers will ignore the instructions of pit bosses. Wayne Newton will headline the showroom, but leave the stage a few minutes early when he feels like it. "Doing this, shows our appreciation for Jaromir's patronage," says a Bally's executive. "He made this place possible in more ways than one."

July 30 -- The Columbus Blue Jackets become a publicly traded company. Jagr acquires a majority interest, then buys himself from the Penguins for $15 million.

July 31 -- The first earthquake in the history of Columbus, Ohio, splits Nationwide Arena in half. The value of Blue Jackets' stock plummets, the team declares bankruptcy and folds. The NHL rules that Jagr's rights revert to the Penguins, but Lemieux refuses to refund Jagr his own purchase price. "We have to do what's best for the team," Mario says. "Besides, my last name is Lemieux, not Baldwin."

Aug. 11 -- Jagr tries to right himself financially by going on a gambling spree in Atlantic City.

Aug. 12 --- Jagr calls a news conference to introduce his new agent, Atlantic City casino owner Donald Trump. Trump says he'll take 90 percent of Jagr's earnings the rest of his career. "We may play one hand of baccarat for double or nothing, though," says The Donald. "If I win, I become prime minister of the Czech Republic." Says Jagr, "I'm dying alive." Replies Trump, "We haven't done that in the casino business since the mob got booted out of Vegas."

Aug. 22 --- The Rangers, successfully bidding against themselves once more, acquire Eric Lindros from Philadelphia for Radek Dvorak, Jan Hlavac, Jamie Lundmark, Pavel Brendl, three No. 1 draft picks and the Statue of Liberty. "We've acquired a real Canadian hockey hero in Eric Lindros," said Rangers General Manager Glen Sather. "We don't need Euro-trash like Jagr." When it's pointed out that Sather's Edmonton dynasty had European stars Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen, Sather replies: "I was hoping you'd forgotten that. After all, you've obviously forgotten that I haven't been a good GM for a decade."

Aug. 23 -- Lindros is hit by a car while crossing the street with his head down and has a career-ending concussion. A witness says the car had a Pennsylvania license plate that said "CLARKE16," but an investigation by Philadelphia police turns up no leads.

Sept. 1 -- Jagr is absent from Penguins training camp and vows to "hold his breath until he turns blue" if the Penguins don't trade him. Says Coach Ivan Hlinka, "Didn't he suck enough in the playoffs last year?" The media faints en masse over the shock of Hlinka having constructed a complete, coherent sentence in English. Comments Aleksey Morozov, "Is luck of -- how you say? -- beginner."

Sept. 13 -- Jagr reports. "I am not Superman," he says. "In fact, right now I don't even have change for the phone booth."

Sept. 16 -- Jagr infuriates teammates by using his cell phone on the bench during an exhibition game. Jagr infuriates whoever he's calling by doing so collect. Robert Dome earns another year playing in Europe by asking Jagr if he can borrow the phone when he's done.

Sept. 30 -- Jagr is traded to the New York Rangers for Mike York, Tomas Kloucek and $10 million cash, only $4 million of which the NHL knows about. Weeklong "I Told You So" festival kicks off on the Mark Madden Show. York joins Lemieux and Brett Hull on productive No. 1 line for Penguins. Craig Patrick finally signs his own free agents. "I was starting to get worried," says Alexei Kovalev.

Mark Madden's talk show is heard from 4 to 8 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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