Pavol Demitra was a talented forward in the NHL
St. Louis Blues Los Angeles Kings Minnesota Wild Vancouver Canucks
. He was born on November 29, 1974 in Dubnica, Slovakia
. He tragically died on September 7, 2011
near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia
. After his stint with the Canucks had ended in 2010 he was set for a second season with the KHL
playing for the team, Lokomotiv
. Almost the entire team and staff was wiped out in the crash.
He was six feet tall and shot left. His position has alternated between right wing and center. Demitra was drafted Ottawa's 8th choice, 227th overall, in 1993 Entry Draft. When he died he had 304 goals, 464 assists (768 points), and only 284 penalty minutes in 847 NHL games played. He had 23 goals, 36 assists (59 points) in 94 playoff games.
Between 1993 and 1996 Pavol Demitra switched between playing for the Senators in the NHL and PEI in the AHL, only totaling up 12 NHL goals during that time. On November 27, 1996 he was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Christer Olsson. It was a good trade, at least for the Blues, for after that Christer Olsson faded into oblivion (now he plays in Europe) and Demitra turned into a prolific scorer for
St. Louis Los Angeles Minnesota.
Pavol Demitra wasn't full time in the NHL until the 1997-1998 season, although he did miss 11 games with a broken jaw. He appeared in his 100th NHL game on December 31, 1997 while playing Detroit. He tied the club lead with six game winning goals while tallying up four short handed goals. In the 1999-2000 season he led the club in scoring for the second consecutive season (75 points in 71 games), had a +34 rating and was right wing for the then-famous "Cycling Slovak Line," the most productive scoring line the Blues had that season.
The Slovak Pack also comprised of Michal Handzus at center and Lubos Bartecko at left wing. Together, buzzing around their opponents' defense, dizzying them with short drop passes to each other and finesse goals, helped the Blues crush the opposition and win the President's Trophy (for getting the most wins that season). That season Demitra alone scored 28 goals and 47 assists, good for 75 points and he won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the good sportsmanship after only racking up 8 penalty minutes. Unfortunately that season was cut short when he was boarded and received a concussion. He was not available in the playoffs where the #1 seeded Blues were knocked out in 7 games by the less-talented #8-seeded San Jose Sharks. It was proved that without Demitra, the Cycling Slovaks were virtually useless.
The Cycling Slovaks never really got to shine again, as in the 2000-2001 season Bartecko was plagued with ankle problems. Demitra himself missed almost half the season with an eye injury and leg injury. Indeed, right after finally coming back from the eye injury the very next game an errant skate sliced his calf. And at the trade deadline that season Handzus was traded to Phoenix with another Slovak, Ladislav Nagy, for the power forward Keith Tkachuk. That season the Blues made it to the Western Conference Finals, a glorious playoff run that was canned by the Colorado Avalanche in five games. Demitra, only scoring two goals in those playoffs, was not a big part of that run.
In 2001-2002 Demitra got back on track, playing in all 82 games and scoring 35 goals and 43 assists (78 points). He finished first in the NHL with 10 game-winning goals and had 20 multi-point games. He scored a career-high four-point game (1G, 3A) against Detroit on May 7. His position moved to center that season, as the Blues were a little short in that department. He was the set-up man in the "Production Line" for Tkachuk at left wing and Scott Mellanby at right. It was the #1 line and the aptly-named trio was indeed the most productive on the team. That line stayed together through the 2003-2004 season.
In 2002-2003 Demitra, flourishing as a centerman, experienced his best season ever, finishing 6th in the NHL with a whopping 93 points (36G, 57A) and ranked first on the team with those stats. He had 10 3-point games and another 4-point game. He posted a nine-game point streak from February 22 to March 13, cashing in 15 points (7G, 8A) over the span. He also got his third career hat trick (accompanied by an assist) on November 29 versus the Calgary. That was the previously-mentioned 4-point game. He scored six points in the playoffs which tied for second on the team in a disappointing 7-game, first-round ouster by the Vancouver Canucks where the Blues squandered a 3 games to 1 lead.
In the 2003-204 season, he was second in St. Louis in the scoring department - 23G, 35A in only 68 games, behind only Keith Tkachuk (who had 33G, 38A). However, his lackluster performance in the Blues' dismal 25th consecutive playoff run against the overpowering San Jose Sharks -- where he scored one goal (one more than Tkachuk scored, though), Demitra and the Blues parted ways, as they did not pick up on an option on his contract.
Ironically, from there he moved on to join his former team, the Ottawa Senators. Even more ironically, he never played a single game for them. After the lockout that wiped out the 2004-2005 season, he signed with the Los Angeles Kings.
While in Southern California, Demitra put up similar respectable numbers that he'd been putting up for the Blues the last few years he'd played there (25 goals, 37 assists). However, a season-ending eye injury cut his season short to only 58 games in 2005-2006. He was reunited with former Blues teammate Craig Conroy while in LA, centered by him and flanked by Alexander Frolov and it proved to be one of the Kings' best scoring lines. However, they did not make the playoffs. After the season was over, the Kings dealt Demitra to the Minnesota Wild for top-flight prospect Patrick O'Sullivan and a first-round pick, 17th overall, in the 2006 NHL entry draft. There he played with fellow Slovak Marian Gaborik and scored 54 points in '07 - '08. With the rotating captaincy that the Wild has he was named team captain for the month of October, 2007.
At the end of that year he became an unrestricted free agent and on July 10th that summer, yearning for something "wilder" he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. He played there until 2010, missing almost the entire 09-10 season with a shoulder injury. After that he retired from the NHL. After that he played in the KHL, and, then, as mentioned at the start of this writeup, he died in the September, 2011 plane crash.