Now I want to first say that this isn’t my story. Patrick Donnelly, a friend and fellow writer was struck hard by the loss of Pavol Demitra and the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club.
If you somehow missed this tragic story, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl lost their hockey club in a plane crash. Bleedin’ Blue covered the loss yesterday, read about it here.
He sent me a direct message on twitter asking me to potentially post an article he’d written since the site he is signed up to write for isn’t set to launch for another few months. I gave the article a read and as a fellow Blues fan who grew up admiring Demitra, this hit me pretty hard. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Interestingly enough, Pavol Demitra may have been the most important Blue in my life as a Blues fan.
Ask any fan of the team, whether they are the most dyed in the wool Blues fanatic or a fringe fan who has attended as many games as they have had jury duty, and they will tell you who their favorite player is. Usually it is the player who scored the pretty goal during their first game, or the first to throw down the gloves in fisticuffs, but ultimately this player is associated with most every memory they have of the team.
For me, I associate my love affair with the team with my adolescent and early teenage years; sitting on the floor in front of my 12 inch TV in my room, glued to the magic that was the President’s cup team, captivated by the Baritones of Ken Wilson’s voice announcing each and every sweet tape to tape pass, bone annihilating hip checks, and scintillating third period goals which personified this team.
Demitra was a catalyst in every sense of the word. A player who, more often then not, would find the quietest of places about the ice and with a touch of Gretzky like stick work, Bure-esque foot speed and almost Boitano finesse and grace would do things with the puck, scoring or otherwise, that many impressionable youth such as me found themselves in quiet awe of. It was a sort of symphonic, albeit raucous, thing of beauty so as to help people remember, or in some cases forget, the simple elegance of players like Hull and Oates, Federko and Sutter, or Berenson. Demitra and his Cycling Slovaks, a collection of over looked European also-rans, literally caught lightning in a bottle, linked by two equal parts talent and a commonality which can only be found by enduring the hardships these men faced growing up where they did, when they did. Names like Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy, and Lubos Bartecko, who each enjoyed samplings of individual success, never shined brighter then when they all played together for the Note, and each added his own uniqueness to the team that was enhanced as soon as Demitra set foot on the ice with them.
I choose not to acknowledge the unfair criticism that Saint Louis heaped on Demitra, because it only serves to tarnish the legacy of a player whose only fault was having the expectations of a future hall of famer heaped on shoulders that were otherwise suited to his game. Demitra was not Brett Hull, nor was he Sergei Federov or Brendan Shanahan. He was Pavol Demitra, the brilliant set up man whose greatest assist was not in the third period of a Toronto Maple Leafs come back, but in the immense impact he had on this city both as a hockey player and as a human being. I choose to remember the player who entranced a young boy sitting on his bedroom floor, staring in awe at this immensely talented and profoundly underrated person that was Pavol Demitra.
It is not hyperbole to say he was the most important Blue in my life, and as we all reflect on what he meant to each of us, it is what this man meant to a generation of hockey fans not quite old enough to understand the sting of Mike Keenan’s iron fist and not yet burned by a Wal-Mart regime set on gutting the very essence of our fanhood, that paints our opinion of this rink magician. It is with great sadness I eulogize a man who meant more to me than few can possibly comprehend, and with a very real tear running down my cheek, I want to thank him for what he did for me, what he meant to me, and for the memory, the legacy, and the indelible footprint he left on me as a hockey fan and as a human being.
Thank you Pavol; you will always be a player I wanted to emulate and I hope to leave the same impression on just one person that is comparable to the one you left on me.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. A truly moving story in which one player impacted just one fan as much as Pavol impacted Patrick.
Be sure to follow Patrick Donnelly on twitter @CarpeDonnelly.
Also follow Bleedin’ Blue on twitter @BleedinBlueFS.