The Penguins stories that built Jaromir Jagr’s legend: Speeding tickets,

Early during the fall of 2007, Petr Sykora walked through the front door of a house he was renting south of Pittsburgh. The place belonged to a friend, and Sykora phoned its owner upon noticing something odd.

On a mantle above a fireplace rested five miniature Art Ross trophies belonging to Jaromir Jagr, who hadn’t played for the Penguins in six years.

“I called Jags, not thinking he would answer — he does not usually answer, that is just Jags,” Sykora said of Jagr, whose No. 68 will be retired by the Penguins during a star-studded ceremony on Sunday.

“But he did, and I think he said, ‘Do you like my house?’

“It was a great house. But it was strange. Everything was still there. Including his awards from his time in Pittsburgh. So, I said, ‘Jags, your trophies are here; should I send them to you?’

“He laughed. He said, ‘I won them in Pittsburgh, that’s where they live. But you can tell people you won them.’

“And a couple of times while I lived there that’s what I did.”

During his 11 seasons with the Penguins, Jagr won five Art Ross trophies, a Hart Trophy, two Stanley Cup titles and scored 439 goals and 1,079 points. And when his iconic tenure ended with a trade to the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2001, he never looked back — leaving everything behind.

“I should not have been surprised,” Sykora said. “Jags doesn’t live in yesterday. But I can say, in my two years in Pittsburgh, anybody who knew I was his friend wanted to hear a story about Jags.

“There must be so many stories about him from Pittsburgh.”

Indeed there are. And before Jagr joins a select group of Penguins on Sunday, The Athletic spoke with several people in his orbit, who gave us a clear picture of how Jagr became an icon in Pittsburgh and beyond.

Craig Patrick, Penguins general manager, 1990-2001: We interviewed (Jagr) at the draft and asked him, “If we draft you, will you come over (to the U.S.)?” He said, “I’ll come right away.” And he did.

Apparently, the teams ahead of us, he told he wasn’t coming over. He wanted to be with Mario (Lemieux). He didn’t say that, but that’s what I read into it.

We wanted him to come right over, so we brought him from Vancouver — him, his mom and dad and an interpreter. I called an immigration guy and said, “How do we do this? Because they don’t have visas.” He said, “We’ll get you visas, but you’ve got to fly to Toronto and go over to Hamilton” — because Hamilton (border crossing) didn’t have immigration. We got them all through.

In Hamilton, there was a bit of a problem because they said, “You have to have visas to get on the plane.” And I said, “Wait, the visas are in Pittsburgh,” and they said, “Oh, well, then he’s good.” And that’s how he got into our country.

When we got him here, I threw a party at my apartment; I lived up the hill behind the Civic Arena. It was a two-bedroom apartment, big enough to have a little…

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