Getting a sit-down interview with Jagr was never going to be easy. The 52-year-old former NHL great had turned down numerous requests by other media and almost never spoke to reporters after games with the Kladno Knights, his hometown team in the Czech Republic.

But persistence paid off for Janicek, Josek and Gebert who on their third visit to Kladno — a year after Janicek first reached out to team officials — got word from the team spokesman that Jagr would speak to the AP team after practice. Josek and Gebert got visuals of Jagr training with his teammates before joining Janicek for the interview in a skybox overlooking the arena.

Jagr spoke candidly about the physical strain of playing professional hockey in his 50s and his determination to continue playing as long as possible to help his struggling team. He also shared his thoughts about the upcoming ceremony in Pittsburgh and what it would mean to him to have his number retired in the city where he made his name in the NHL.