One League's inconsistent scorer is another country's hockey hero. Which is to say that Pavol Demitra(notes) was a good, never great, player in the NHL from 1994-2010, finishing his career with the Vancouver Canucks before moving over to the KHL. Yet in Slovakia, he's as beloved a player as you'll find.
So it was quite a scene on Monday when the hosts defeated Denmark, 4-1, but were still eliminated in the qualifying rounds at the IIHF World Championship — because it was also the final Slovakian National Team game for captain Demitra, who said goodbye in a tearful sendoff:
From Lucas Aykroyd of IIHF.com, it wasn't just farewell to Demitra:
Captain Pavol Demitra confirmed after the game that this would be his last national team game with Slovakia. The 36-year-old star will continue to play at least one more season with the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, however.
"For me and everybody, it was very emotional," said Demitra of the post-game cheers. "You're going to remember it the rest of your life."
"I don't want to close the door to any of these players," head coach Glen Hanlon said when asked about retiring veterans. "Pavol Demitra, Miro Satan and these players are always invited back to our team. They (Demitra, Satan) are the greatest players ever in Slovak hockey and I wished they could be forever young. Today was a great example of the character of these players and the passion they have for the country and for the team."
Ya know, maybe our loathing of the skills competition would be lessened if foreign-born announcers called every shootout …