As he stepped up to the podium yesterday afternoon at the United Center, Jaromir Jagr looked out at the collection of ill-dressed, misshapen media types waiting to speak with him, and then he smiled, and then he cracked a joke.
As always, though, the joke was on him.
“You guys are surprised,” he said. “I’m still alive.”

Therein lies the beauty of this 41-year-old, Hall of Fame-bound Czech journeyman. You can make jokes about his age if you’d like, but he’s faster at the comedic draw than you, and he’s better. Much better.
Take, for example, the fact that Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews offered yesterday that as a kid growing up in Manitoba he was so much a Jaromir Jagr fan that he wore No. 68 in a couple of summer leagues and even used a Jagr-style Koho stick.
“(Toews) said he tried to model his game after you,” a reporter told him.
“Then you need to tell him to slow down a little then,” Jagr fired back, not missing a beat. “He’s too quick over there.”
Another reporter began a question with, “You haven’t played the Blackhawks this season,” referencing the fact that the teams haven’t met since the 2011-12 season because of the lockout.
Jagr jumped on that one, too. Without bothering to state the obvious — which is that he played most of this season with the Dallas Stars until a deadline deal landed him in Boston — he said, “I did. Twice. I know everything about them.”
Ever seen photos of a young, teenaged Jagr when he broke in with the Penguins? Seen that wild hairdo he sported in those days?
“When I had the long hair, I wouldn’t say it was a style, but I wasn’t the only one who had it,” he said. “There were a lot of guys — maybe not that long, but a lot of guys wore long hair. Right now, it’s a different style. But it’s going to come back. Ten years later, you’ll see.”