Pavol Demitra (1974-2011): Gone But Certainly Not Forgotten

In the wake of Wednesday’s Russian plane disaster that decimated the whole Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, killing 43 people including Slovak team captain Pavol Demitra (1974-2011), rivers of tears have been flowing throughout Slovakia.

Condolences book at Primate's Palace, Bratislava (c) The Daily

Most foreigners in Slovakia probably don’t realise just how much an idol Pavol Demitra was in his lifetime, but the tributes being made to the man in memorium make it pretty clear.

Pavol’s body was finally returned to Slovakia yesterday afternoon, brought from Russia by a plane of the Ministry of Interior to Bratislava, before being taken by helicopter to the city of Trencin, where his bereaved wife and relatives were waiting to collect his coffin.

Since Pavol’s death was announced, the City of Trencin has decided to rename its hockey stadium after him, and a request has been filed also to rename the local primary school that Pavol attended in his hometown of Dubnica.

The City of Bratislava looks set to name the small square at the new Ondrej Nepela Arena after him also. It was here that Pavol gave his final farewell to his career in the national team, at the Ice-Hockey World Championships in May. His tearful and emotionally-charged farewell as captain of the national team “has taken on a whole new depth of meaning”, said fellow player and long-term friend, Miroslav Satan.

People all over the country are spontaneously setting up shrines in his name at hockey stadiums everywhere, and the Slovak ice-hockey association SZLH has retired Demitra’s legendary jersey number 38 for all-time in his honour. People around the country are wearing these jerseys in his memory, and the SZLH will be playing all its friendly matches from now until the next World Championships in jerseys bearing also a symbolic number 38 on them.

A minute’s silence in memory of Pavol Demitra was observed in parliament, by the Slovak soldiers based in Afghanistan and even by football teams in Slovakia before they kicked off at the weekend. Naturally, the same show of respect was given before the weekend’s hockey league matches.

Pavol Demitra was just 36 years old when he was killed, leaving behind his wife Maria and their two children Lucas and Zara. Pavol’s illustrious club career was played with Dukla Trencin, Ottowa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesotta Wild, Vancouver Canucks and one final season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. With the Slovak national team he played in six world championships (winning one) and three Olympic games.

The official farewell to Pavol Demitra will take place this Thursday at the ice-hockey stadium in Trencin, where visitors will be able to pay their respects to his coffin between 10 am and 2 pm.


  1. Not quite ; my argument is with the word ‘even’, which implied to me that the writer found it a surprise that football teams were capable of observing the minute’s silence.

    Only a minor quarrel, though, as I found the piece as a whole very nice – a fitting tribute in itself, in fact.

  2. ‘even by football teams in Slovakia…’ Why ‘even’? Is the implication there that football teams or fans would be incapable of observing the silence?

    I think one feature of sporting life which is stronger here than in, say, Britain, is that there’s a mutual respect across sports. Players respect the achievements of peers in other sports, fans of one sport also often love other sports and lend their support to them.

    Demitra’s professional achievements, his qualities as both man and player and the esteem in which people held him (all very nicely expressed in this piece) make it inconceivable that any bunch of sportsmen or fans would have done any other than pay the utmost respect to the minute’s silence held for him last w/e.

    1. You answered the first question yourself James ….. “I think one feature of sporting life which is stronger here than in, say, Britain, is that there’s a mutual respect across sports”

      1. .. at the same token… the same applies among writers, translators and interpreters be it here in Slovakia or among us “American Slovaks”. Therefore John Boyds writing and his idea of having THE DAILY is held at the highest level. Good job John!

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