Blues honor former players killed in plane crash
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org November 8, 2011 10:54PM
VANCOUVER, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 16: Pavol Demitra #38 of the Vancouver Canucks poses for his official headshot for the 2009-2010 NHL season in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Updated: December 10, 2011 10:00AM
ST. LOUIS — All Pavol Demitra had to do was look back at Joel Quenneville on the bench when the two were with the St. Louis Blues. They shared a unique bond that didn’t always require words.
“I love Pav. I loved coaching him,” Quenneville said. “I knew all the signs of how we communicated without having to say anything. He would sit on the bench, and he would look back when he wanted to get out there. I knew I’d put him out there. You knew why he wanted to go, because he wanted to make a difference in the game.”
Quenneville happily shared that memory of their time together Tuesday, when the Blues held a touching pregame ceremony in honor of Demitra and former Blue and Hawk Igor Korolev. They were among the 45 people killed in the crash of the private jet carrying Russian pro team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv on Sept. 7.
Quenneville, assistant coach Mike Kitchen (a former Blues coach) and assistant general manager Marc Bergevin (a former teammate) took part in the ceremony, and Marian Hossa and Jamal Mayers were announced. Quenneville was called “Pavol’s favorite NHL coach” during the ceremony, which included speeches by Brett Hull and Keith Tkachuk.
“Some guys stick out that you were fortunate to coach,” Quenneville said. “He was a special guy.”
Hossa and Demitra were very close. Hossa was announced as Demitra’s “best friend” at the ceremony.
“He will always be with me,” said Hossa, who missed the start of training camp to attend services for Demitra. “It’s a great thing what they’re doing honoring former players.”
Hossa made sure to speak with Demitra’s wife, Maja, on Monday night. Demitra’s family didn’t attend the ceremony.
“She is my neighbor, and we’re a close group of guys in my hometown [in Slovakia],” Hossa said. “We’re going to care for her and her family.”
Mayers and Demitra were Blues teammates for several seasons.
“Everyone knows he was a great player, but he always had time for everybody,” Mayers said. “He treated everybody the same. He was great friend, and he was a great competitor. He was just a great teammate.”