The question is as old as hair itself. Do great men have great salads, or do great salads create great men? There is perhaps no better case study for analyzing this question than the great Jaromir Jagr. Jagr has amassed many an accomplishment over the course of his nearly three decades in the NHL: two Stanley Cups, a Hart Trophy, five Art Ross trophies, second all time in career points, and third in goals. However, perhaps his most iconic accomplishment has been his persistent dedication to maintaining one of the greatest heads of hair not just in the history of the NHL, but the history of mankind itself. With each passing milestone, the question weighs more and more: Does Jagr’s hair actually affect his talent on the ice? Have alterations to his hairstyle in turn affected his style of play? By poring through the archives and studying the correlation between Jagr’s hair and his on-ice success over the course of his career, I seek to explore this mysterious phenomenon.
I will not break down every single season Jagr has been in the league, as that would take me approximately 89 years due to the fact that, if my history knowledge does not fail me, Jagr has been playing hockey since Millard Filmore was President of the United States. Rather, I will focus in on a few specific seasons, being sure to highlight any key findings and major developments with regard to Jagr’s hair and associated on-ice results.
1990-91 (Pittsburgh Penguins) 80 Games Played, 27 Goals, 30 Assists
We’ve all heard the common saying associated with mullets. “Business in the front. Party in the back.” Well, Jags made it clear from the get-go that he was going to break this mold. This is top to bottom, 360 degree party. No business whatsoever. The way the hair flies around the front of his forehead clearly shows that Jagr was lending himself to shock and awe as opposed to the craftsman-like precision of a tighter mullet. This shock and awe found its way onto the ice, manifesting into an All Rookie Season that ended with the ultimate party: hoisting the Stanley Cup.
1991-92 (Pittsburgh Penguins) 70 Games Played, 32 Goals, 37 Assists
As seen in the minor tweaks in the intricacies of his hair, Jagr was trying to hone in his game to avoid a sophomore slump. Rather than opting for the all-party grandeur of his rookie year style, Jagr decided to clean up the front side of the mullet, calling slightly more attention to the flow in the back. This was a sign of maturity from Jagr. Despite a decorated rookie season, he knew he would constantly have to improve upon himself in order to remain a leading force in the league. This tireless desire to make improvements even when change may not have seemed necessary earned him his first of many selections to the NHL All Star Game, and culminated in another Stanley Cup for the Penguins, Jagr, and his hair.
1992-93 (Pittsburgh Penguins) 81 Games Played, 34 Goals, 60 Assists
It can easily be argued that in his third year as a pro, Jagr was finally able to perfect his already glorious mullet. While returning to the “party in the front” mantra of his rookie display, he grew out the back, thus also captivating the world with the flow he was able to put in the spotlight during his second season. It was clear that Jagr was done tweaking. He was in a full on pursuit of perfection across the board, combining the strengths of his two previous styles. Though for the first time as a pro Jagr did not end the year lifting the Stanley Cup, he was able to tally more goals and assists than in either of his first two seasons. Did finding perfection atop his head contribute in any way to reaching a new plane of individual success?
The Rest of the 1990s (Pittsburgh Penguins)
After finding perfection in the ’92-’93 season, Jagr seemed to have adopted the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mindset for the remainder of the 1990s. With the exception of a few anomalies, such the short lived experiment with bangs from the ’93 season shown above, Jagr remained committed to maintaining a 360 degree party while letting his mane run wild. Some credit must be given to the then-young Jagr in this regard. Coming off back to back Stanley Cups and a historic President’s Trophy winning 1992-93 regular season, Jagr could easily have done something drastic after the Penguin’s stunning game 7 loss to the New York Islanders in the 1993 Patrick Division Finals. Instead, he maturely stayed the course, refusing to rashly throw away something he had worked so hard to perfect. This proved to be the right decision, as the 1990s was quite a decade for Jagr. Remaining committed to the mullet, Jagr won 3 Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leader in points, and in 1999 won the Hart Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
1999-2000 (Pittsburgh Penguins) 63 Games Played, 42 Goals, 56 Assists
Just prior to the turn of the millennium, Jagr stunned the hockey world by taking the shears to his now famous mullet, opting for a more conservative style. What possessed him to do this remains one of history’s greatest mysteries. Some have posited that it was at the behest of his girlfriend at the time, but this remains unconfirmed. An alternative theory that I have suggested is that Jagr feared that Y2K would render his blow dryer useless, and thus wanted to transition to a more manageable style before it was too late. Nevertheless, Jagr didn’t seem to lose his game when he lost his iconic look, as he went on to win his fourth Art Ross Trophy despite playing in only 63 games. Moreover, Y2K fortunately never came into fruition. Jagr’s blow dryer remained fully operational, and thus the possibility of a return to the mullet loomed.
2000-2001 (Pittsburgh Penguins) 81 Games Played, 52 Goals, 69 Assists
In the summer of the year 2000, the hockey world waited with baited breath as Jagr was slated to play his first full year in the NHL without a mullet. Sure, he was just fine the previous season despite cutting it part way into the year. But would this year be different? As the mullet became more of a distant memory, would the effects of its absence begin to truly weigh on him? Well, Jagr again closed the door on the doubters who were unsure if he could perform without his mane, putting together yet another Art Ross winning season. Memories of Jagr’s flow may have slowly been fading away, but he sure wasn’t.
2001-2002 (Washington Capitals) 69 Games Played, 31 Goals, 48 Assists
Much has been said about Jagr’s contentious stint with the Capitals after being traded by the Penguins to ease the team’s cap situation, then promptly signing what was at the time the biggest contract in the league’s history. Coming off of four consecutive Art Ross winning seasons, Jagr wasn’t able to put up the prolific numbers that he did with the Pens, and the Capitals were not performing at the level they expected to after signing the man widely known to be the league’s best player. Again, many explanations have been offered as to why Jagr struggled with the Caps. But I’m not here to summarize, I’m here to talk about Jagr’s hair. Jagr’s first two seasons of the post-mullet era seemed to debunk the theory that any of Jagr’s ability was tied up in his hair, but maybe it wasn’t that simple. Jagr flaunted his mullet around Pittsburgh for the better part of a decade. Even after he cut it, its remains had to have been dispersed throughout the city. Maybe a few stray hairs found their way into the water supply. Perhaps there were some muggy days where mullet residue evaporated into the air. Though the mullet was no longer on Jagr’s head, it was still ingrained into the fabric of the city. Perhaps during Jagr’s two prolific seasons after shaving it, he was still feeding off of its very-much present aura. Unfortunately, playing for a new team in a city with no traces of mullet magic, a bit of Jagr’s magic may have been lost as well.
2005-06 (New York Rangers) 82 Games Played, 54 Goals, 69 Assists
After a disappointing stint in D.C., Jagr was traded to the Rangers before the 2004 trade deadline. After spending the 2004-05 season in the KHL due to the NHL lockout, Jagr returned to the Big Apple hoping to rejuvenate his career. An obvious attempt to regain his youthful dominance could have been bringing back the mullet, yet Jagr chose not to. Could Jagr have been aware that the world was ready to pounce on him and chalk up his past successes to his hair rather than himself? Did Jagr want to prove to the doubters, or even to himself, that his abilities belonged to him and not his mullet? If this was his intent, it was worth his while. Without the help of a luscious mane, Jagr put up a 123 point season, finishing second in MVP voting and setting a New York Rangers single season franchise record with 54 goals. Jagr continued to keep things short as he spent the next two seasons as the captain of the Rangers before departing to play in the KHL. It looked like the door was shut and the league would never see his mullet again.
2011-12 (Philadelphia Flyers) 73 Games Played 19 Goals 35 Assists
After a 3 year absence from the NHL, the world was clamoring to know if Jagr would bring his classic mullet with him upon his triumphant return to the big show. However, trying to establish himself as a more stoic veteran presence, Jagr went with a more modest cut. He put up a solid season for being three years removed from the game’s highest level, but as a fan you couldn’t help but notice something about Jagr. His hair was a bit more unruly than ever before, perhaps due to the indecision that had come along with trying to find his new identity in the league. Despite the fact that Jagr didn’t start his new era in the NHL with his mullet, one could not help but wonder if his search for identity would eventually lead him back to his roots.
2012-13 (Dallas Stars/Boston Bruins) 45 Games Played, 16 Goals, 19 Assists
This was the year that Jagr planted his flag atop the NHL and announced that his hair was once again a force to be reckoned with. Jagr began the year in Dallas. Initially, all was quiet on the follicle front. That is until Jagr was dealt to the Boston Bruins before the trade deadline. Now with a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, Jagr’s hair was no longer hiding in the shadows. In addition to growing out some salad in the back, Jagr styled the front a bit, giving it the most identity it had seen since his mullet days. And he didn’t just stick to the scalp. In a daring move, Jagr grew out his playoff beard and shaved it into a style that made him resemble a Civil War general. The leadership that this display put forth helped the veteran Jagr lead the Bruins all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Although the Bruins lost in 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks, the league now knew that even at age 40, Jagr could produce a head of hair capable of leading a team into the depths of the playoffs.
2015-16 (Florida Panthers) 79 Games Played, 27 Goals, 39 Assists
After reaching the Cup Final with Boston, Jagr spent the better part of the next two seasons in New Jersey playing for the Devils. Despite a solid 2013-14 campaign, it was a relatively uneventful stint. Jagr reverted back to a more conservative look, and the Devils were never a legitimate playoff contender. However, the boredom ended when Jagr was dealt to the Florida Panthers prior to the 2015 trade deadline. The following summer, inspired by the youthful energy of the team’s young core and egged on by veteran leaders such as goaltender Roberto Luongo, Jagr finally agreed to fully embrace bringing back his vintage mullet. The mullet lacked the definition and volume of its 1990s predecessor, yet the flowing curls still evoked shades of Jagr’s glory days. This season is one of the strongest pieces of evidence supporting the assertion that Jagr’s on ice success is somehow connected to the style of his hair. With the mullet gloriously flowing behind him, Jagr put together arguably his best season after returning from the KHL, and helped lead the upstart Panthers to the playoffs.
Present (Calgary Flames)
After a disappointing 2016-17 campaign with the Panthers and spending much of the offseason unsure if he would receive an offer from another team, Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames. Joining another upstart team with a young core, Jagr has kept the mullet in hopes of keeping up with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Unfortunately, Jagr has already hit a snag, being placed on IR with a lower-body injury. However, the injury is supposed to be short term, and Jagr has an opportunity to gain an extra step after he returns. Late in his career, Jagr is using the mullet to try and maintain his youth. There is still opportunity to improve upon this. If Jagr can experiment with products and styling to give the front of his hair a bit more volume and bump, he may be able to turn the clock back a few more years and bump his game up another notch. I know his hair may be thinner and less malleable than it was in his days of youth, but the potential is still there. Jagr has no lack of hair to work with, and advancements in hair-sculpting technology over the last 20 years may be able to get him where he wants to be. Party in the front. Party in the back.
Like his hair, Jagr’s career has seen many ebbs and flows. He’s had historically great seasons, and he’s had disappointing seasons. He’s seen fan bases turn on him from being a beloved hero to public enemy number one, and vice versa. He’s had mullets, he’s kept it tight, and he’s drawn inspiration from figures ranging from Billy-Ray Cyrus to Union General Ambrose Burnside. In the end, I have presented evidence that both supports and refutes the theory that Jagr’s hair is tied to his skill a la the biblical story of Samson and the lion. Both the hockey and the hair communities should continue to speculate upon this assertion, but one thing is certain: Jagr and his hair are a sight to behold, and every once in a while it would benefit everyone to just sit back and view this phenomenon with a sense of child-like wonder.