Jagr, Therien had some classic battles


During his decade-long tenure as a Flyers defenseman, Chris Therien had one fairly remarkable achievement as Eric Desjardins longtime partner.

He owned Jaromir Jagr.

Its often been said that if Therien had played every elite forward in the game like he did Jagr, he would have escaped Desjardins shadow and garnered more peer recognition.

So what allowed Therien to shut down one of hockeys premier scorers in almost routine fashion whenever they met?

When you played him, you had to be so prepared to play him, Therien said. If you were not prepared for him, you would have a very long night. He was that skilled. He was a left shot on the right wing. The ice opened more for him than if he had a right shot.

I had Desjardins with me, but I was physical with him. I kept him to the outside. Biggest thing was I would let him have the outside. No damage there. If he got to the middle, he would be a very big problem. Leave him to the outside, wedge him into the corner, hit and try to knock him off the puck.

Jagr smiles when you mention Theriens name and freely admits that no one guarded him better on the ice. But Jagrs rationale as to why Therien was so successful actually makes a lot of sense.

At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Therien was one among the biggest defensemen in hockey during his era. And he could skate very, very well for a big man.

At 6-3, 242, Jagr was one of the largest forwards in the league. Therien was one of few d-men who could physically handle Jagr.

Smaller defensemen who lacked Theriens speed had to concede ice to Jagr.

He was built the same way I was, said Jagr, who noted that he still hasnt had a chance to sit down with Therien and reminisce about the past. He was about as strong as I am and as fast as I was. There was no clear advantage that I could take against him. Sometimes you get strong guys, but slower and I can use my speed. Sometimes, you get fast guys and I can use the body. But if I am exactly the way he is, its even physically, its tough to win. He had a long reach, like I did. I would have to outsmart him.

He knew I could not beat him and that gave him confidence. Sometimes, if a guy has no confidence, they back up. Beat him once, hes thinking about and he gives you more room. Its like a boxer. He can dominate, but all it takes is one hit. He can beat me five games but the one time I beat him, then he is thinking about it. Didnt happen much with him.

Added Therien: We got to a point where we started talking after a while and he would say, Tonight, I got you. He took it as a challenge too. It became a good rivalry.

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