He seems to smile more and frown less.
He likes to laugh and tell jokes.
He realizes hes not the center of attention anymore.
Things are very different these days for Jaromir Jagr, who will turn 40 when the worst of winter is upon us in February.
Once upon a time, he was still a kid living the high-life in Pittsburgh where his Penguins had won back-to-back Stanley Cups.
He boldly told Sports Illustrated after that second Cup in 1992 he was ready to retire and didnt need any more championship rings.
I just need money and beaches and girls, Jagr proclaimed.
Reminded of those words one September afternoon after a Flyers practice, Jagr grinned and laughed heartily.
I was dumb, he said. Maybe I still am. I was 20 years old. I dont know what happened.
This isnt the second (Washington) or even third (Rangers) coming of Jagr. This is the mature coming of Jagr, who turned down more money to remain in Russia just to return to the NHL.
He signed a one-year deal for 3.3 million. Hes among a slew of personnel changes the Flyers hope can make up for the 78 goals they lost by trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, not to mention not re-signing Ville Leino.
So whats important now? Jagr takes a deep breath and pauses several seconds.
Hockey is a big part of my life, he says, almost pleading his case. Probably more than half. I love it. Nothing has changed. Later in life, you look at things differently. Im almost 40 years old. Theres a lot of ups and downs in your life.
You just want to be happy every day. I try to. Sometimes, it doesnt always go that way, but you look the positive way. Whatever happens is the best that could happen to you. Thats the way I look at it.
Even if its not good, its the best that can happen to you because you can always learn from the bad things. Its tougher, but that is how you learn the most when something goes wrong. Its pretty tough to learn when everything goes right.
Jaromir Jagr has grown. Hes settled down a girlfriend of six years.
Now heres the intriguing part. Jagr still plays the game the same way. Sure, the long curly locks are gone. But not the moves. Not the hands. Not the skill to find people with deft, blind passes that only Jagr can make.
That part has stood the test of time.
He threw me a saucer pass in Detroit and I ended up scoring on it and it was just like, Geez, not many people can make those passes, Scott Hartnell said. You kind of think he's been out of the league a few years, maybe he's lost a step or his skill, but obviously he was playing in a good league over in Russia.
Its still there.
And yet, Jagr worries. Only one thing scares this man, who is going to break a half-dozen scoring records this season, including gathering his 1,600th point.
What scares Jagr is something he never gave a second thought about as a younger player: himself.
He worries he wont live up to the hype this time around. That he might disappoint people.
He cautioned us fans shouldnt get their expectations up just because he single-handedly dragged the Flyers gosh-awful power play out of the garbage heap in preseason, not to mention led the team with four goals.
I dont want to disappoint the guys who signed me, Jagr said with a serious look on his face. That's why I want to do good. I want to do good to help those guys, help the team that signed me and gave me a chance.
If its just about myself, I had so many bad games and bad seasons. This wont be the first time. I just dont want to disappoint those guys who believe in me. That is what I am nervous about.
Theres a lot of doubters as to why Philly signed me. Why they do it and sign a 40-year old guy? I dont want other guys who took the risk to be blamed.
Obviously, there is no i in the word team these days for Jagr.
When you had him in Washington and New York, it was his team, Danny Briere said. They built a team around Jaromir. This year, he comes back after leaving the NHL for three years.
Hes not coming back here to try and run a team himself. Hes coming back because he believes in our team.
At his age, the goal is to win. Hes not coming here to be on a bad team and rack up points. I think hell fall right in with us. Were real excited about him coming over. There is a reason why he chose us.
Jagr chose the Flyers because he couldnt go home to Pittsburgh anymore. He felt everyone had disliked the way things ended there years ago, when he turned to free agency. He felt he had burned too many bridges. After all, no city in the U.S. has more bridges than the Burgh.
I never thought that Pittsburgh fans would want me back, Jagr said. Every time I played there, they were booing me every time I touched the puck. I didnt think it would be such a big deal that I didnt sign with Pittsburgh ...
If I hurt anybody, I apologize, because I didnt want to, but on the other side I just dont understand why people can be that mad about my decision.
He said he stood in front of a mirror the first day he put an orange Flyers jersey on and had to ask himself, Who is this?
Some things die hard. Jagr forever in Penguin black and gold is how some people will always remember him.
I had an ego back then, he said. It was a different life and different things.
Back then, he played on one of hockeys greatest scoring lines. In 1996-97, the line of Ron Francis, Mario Lemieux and Jagr dazzled the NHL with 187 points.
No one says Jagr, who scored 47 goals that season, is going to duplicate those numbers with his new linemates Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk but there is no reason not to expect that Jagr can score at least 25 goals and rack up at least 60 points.
Given the proficiency he displayed on the power play in preseason, it would not surprise anyone if Jagr were to get most of those points on special tams. His power play stats from three years with the Rangers: 29 points, 41 points and 52 points.
The hands dont lie. Jagr still has it in his hands. He feels there is just one major adjustment he needs to make.
Shorter turns, he said, meaning turning radius on North American ice which is less wide than rinks at the international level. Ive got to do everything here with shorter turns. Thats probably the toughest for me.
Watching Jagr on the ice, its hard to fathom anything being a chore for him. It looks so easy. Looks like, well, almost like two decades ago.
As a kid, I looked up to him, Giroux said. Obviously, one of the best players who every played. Any time you got a guy like that on your line, its pretty exciting. Im pretty excited to play with him.
Flyer coach Peter Laviolette tried to temper his enthusiasm of what this extraordinary athlete brings to the ice.
He scored a scored a lot of power play goals in his career, Laviolette said.
Jagr, who averages 1.26 points a game, has 181 career power play goals.
Chris Pronger? Eighty-two.
Danny Briere? Ninty-five.
Kimmo Timonen? Fifty-three.
When you bring a guy like that in, his experience and talent, you can only benefit, Laviolette said. Were looking for Jagr in a bigger role on the power play.
When camp was over, Jagr admitted he might have gleaned something from playing in Russia the last three years, but he wasnt quite what it was just yet.
Maybe I learned something there that I can use this season, he mused. Maybe had I stayed here it would have been a lot worse. Maybe I would have been injured.
The most important thing for me was that I was happy with my decision to come back. Thats what matters.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.