Our countdown to the 206-17 season continues, with 38 days to go.
NHL fans love arguing about who the best player to wear each jersey number was. Ovechkin or Selanne at #8? Hull or Dionne at #16? Which goalie at #1? However, some numbers aren’t up for debate. And there’s only one #38: Pavol Demitra.
We are three days away from the fifth anniversary of plane crash that took Demitra’s life. 44 of the 45 people on board, including the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, perished in the crash just outside of Yaroslavl in Russia. The hockey world ground to a halt as the victims were mourned by teammates, coaches, and fans. After a distinguished sixteen-year career in the NHL with five teams, including a season with the Los Angeles Kings, Demitra had touched many in the hockey community.
Demitra’s life and career are being showcased in a documentary called, naturally, Pavol Demitra: 38. The film is showing tomorrow at the HeArt of Europe Festival in Vancouver and features remembrances from many of his NHL teammates. Here’s the trailer, which is primarily in Slovak but conveys the impact Demitra had to any language.
Though most of Demitra’s career highlights took place in St. Louis or on the international stage, he did play for the Kings in 2005-06 and quickly became a fan favorite. Before Jeff Carter did it two years ago, Pavol Demitra pulled off the feat of scoring a hat trick on Hat Night, doing so on November 19, 2005. That was sandwiched between a four-assist night and a three-assist night; I imagine the list of players with ten points in three games for the Kings is pretty short. Demitra also had a second four-point night right before the 2006 Olympic break, where he went to Italy and scored seven points in six games for Slovakia. Though he battled an eye injury during the season, he finished out the year with 62 points in 58 games before being traded for Patrick O’Sullivan during the offseason.
Demitra was 36 when that plane crash took his life. No King has worn the number 38 since.
Tomorrow: We examine the significance of #37.