Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Memory of Pavol

I was up early the morning the news broke that a plane carrying the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed during take-off, killing almost everyone on board and opening yet another gaping hole in the hearts of an already grieving hockey community. The fact that I was scheduled to board my own plane in a few hours made me uneasy enough, but the loss of so many talented people left me with a knot in my stomach that stuck with me most of the day.

As I followed the news on Twitter from the Burbank airport, I scanned the roster of those lost. One name immediately jumped out and grabbed hold of my heart -- former Los Angeles King Pavol Demitra.

Demitra played a mere 58 games for the Kings during a forgettable 2005-2006 season, a year before I became a hockey fan. I never saw Demitra play for my beloved Kings, but I will always remember his name because his trade to the Minnesota Wild brought the Kings the first player I ever loved -- Patrick O'Sullivan.

Because I missed the highlights of Pavol Demitra's career as a King, I reached out to my fellow Kings bloggers to get their insights, and they graciously responded. In some cases, they had already written fantastic posts about Pavol on their own blogs, so I'll share those here as well.

For Mayors Manor, Demitra was "as exciting as they come."

Surly & Scribe contributor Howard Roark wrote a comprehensive profile of Demitra's short but memorable career with the Kings.

Matt Reitz of View From My Seats and Pro Hockey Talk wrote about the frustrations of the deadly off-season that 2011 has been for hockey fans. He also shared a memory of Demitra's shoout-out prowess and notable creativity.
"The strongest memory that I took from Pavol's lone season with the Kings was a relatively nothing play in an insignificant regular season game. If you remember, Demitra came to LA in the first year after the lockout. I remember during one of the shootouts (back when they were an exciting novelty), he was the first shooter I remember swinging way out wide to make a move on a goaltender. Before that, it just seemed like shooters were magnetically drawn to skate directly towards the goaltender with as little imagination as possible. When I saw him do his thing, I saw the possibilities for some of the moves that players are dropping today. His play in the Olympics reminded me of all of the creativity that he teased us with in that single season."

Several bloggers, including Keith Korneluk from KingsCast and Jesse from Life in Hockeywood recalled the most colorful moment of Demitra's career as a King. There is nothing like a hat trick on a free hat giveaway night!

I got a wonderful collection of memories from my fellow writers, but the comment that moved me the most was this observation from the always eloquent Bobby Scribe:
"As for me, it's simple - fans so often look at players as assets, as if they are an interchangeable means to an end. That opinion is probably shared by many successful owners and general managers. What we forget is that they are flesh and blood with hearts and minds, each are fallible and experiences the range of human emotion we all do. They have dedicated their entire life to become professional hockey players and their ultimate goal, one we must remind ourselves of in such a tragic moment, is that they do it to become a part of our extended family known as the "team." When they die, a part of our family dies."
Rest in peace, Pavol. In our hearts, you'll always be a King.

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