From Greg Wyshynski
There's a duality to stardom in the NHL. For example, a player can be a familiar name in North America but complete rock star back home, wherever home might be.
For Pavol Demitra, home was Dubnica, Slovakia. And he was a rock star.
I got a sense of that twice in the last two years. At the Vancouver Olympics, Demitra scored the definitive goal of Slovakia's upset victory over Russia in the preliminary round, banking a shot off the left post and behind Ilya Bryzgalov(notes). By all logic, the Slovaks should have been exhausted by that point in the game, having played in an intense loss to the Czech Republic less than 24 hours earlier. Said Demitra, in a line to which today's events lend an eerie context:
"When you play for your country in the Olympics ... you have one chance in your life. You have to do whatever you can."
The second time Demitra came off as a rock star was when he retired from the national team earlier this year. His sendoff was an emotional, tear-filled moment for the fans and their captain.
After his national team work and NHL stints with the St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks -- during which he displayed memorable offensive flourish -- Demitra wasn't ready to completely step away from hockey yet; planning on at least one more season with Lokomotic before contemplating retirement.
Little did any of us know how significant that farewell on the ice at IIHF Worlds would be.