While Dan and I have a few other things in the hopper, especially with the Traverse City tournament coming up, it's impossible to overlook the loss of Pavol Demitra and 42 others in a plane crash yesterday. For the fourth time this offseason, members of the NHL fraternity have lost their lives and Demitra is the second former Wild player to pass away. Sadly, it's getting to the point where I'm becoming numb to the continued deaths of hockey players; a thought which on its own is nothing short of disturbing.
That's not to say Demitra and everyone aboard the plane carrying members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL hockey team should be seen as another statistic. No one wants that. It just means that after reading a heartfelt piece yesterday on Derek Boogaard and addiction and many Wade Belak tributes over the last week, this hockey season could not come any sooner. With so much sadness and grieving throughout the hockey community, October 8th against Columbus will be a relief; an opportunity for the State of Hockey to pay our respects to Pavol Demitra and Derek Boogaard in the best way possible.
Although his stint with Minnesota was short, Demitra symbolizes one of the biggest changes the franchise has undergone. Before the 2006 NHL Draft, the Wild were an expansion team who had one magical postseason run but otherwise were the new kids on the block. In one fall swoop, that changed and this video speaks for itself.
That might be the most emotion anyone has ever seen from Gary Bettman...
Demitra's arrival, which foreshadowed former General Manager Doug Risebrough's attempt to go all-in (i.e. signing defensemen Kim Johnsson in free agency and re-signing Demitra's best friend Marian Gaborik) made Minnesota into the team they are today. Those two seasons with Demitra have been the most successful regular seasons in club history - culminating with a Northwest Division title in 2008 - and he was fairly successful scoring 25 and 15 goals, respectively, while being entertaining on a "boring" club. His shootout goals were as one fan noted "so far wide that he'd need GPS to find his way back to the net."
The hockey moments go on and there are many to choose from. Like Derek Boogaard before him, I never knew Pavol Demitra. I can't reflect like Marian Gaborik, Luc Robitaille or Andy Murray. But the fact that so many who knew Demitra or any of the 42 other people who passed away speak so highly of the fallen is soothing for those who never had the opportunity.
It's great to see the hockey community rally around Pavol Demitra because he means a lot, both on and off the ice, to those who know and don't know him. Hockey does that. And with the way this off-season has gone and the way so many have been taken away far too young, we need hockey just a little bit more.
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