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Jan Tatar was a professional soccer player in Slovakia for a few years, until he realized it wasn’t all that lucrative. He left sports to study engineering, eventually taking a job with the military, but athletics would remain a part of his family’s DNA – including that of his son, Tomas Tatar, a winger for the Detroit Red Wings.
According to the Detroit News, Tatar saw his father during the NHL’s Christmas break. He wasn’t well. Tatar returned to the Wings hoping his father could battle through his liver problems.
But Jan Tatar died on Friday in Slovakia. He was 60.
Tomas Tatar was in the lineup on Saturday night for Detroit at the Los Angeles Kings, his heart heavy but his mission clear: Play the game in his father’s honor.
He assisted on Riley Sheahan’s first NHL goal in the first period to tie the game. Then, at 12:06 of the third period, Tatar scored what would be the game-winning goal in Detroit’s 3-1 victory over the Kings.
Tatar celebrated by acknowledging that his late father was on his mind – kissing his finger and pointing to the sky.
"This game and my goal were for him,” said Tatar, who will travel to Slovakia Monday and will miss Thursday’s game in New York against the Rangers. “It’s really hard for me to talk about. It was a big loss for me.”
“It wasn’t easy but the guys helped me a lot,” said Tatar of playing Saturday. “I was ready to play the game.
“I knew he was sick, but I was still hoping he would make it through. Unfortunately this happened.”
All Tatar could do was battle through the despair like his father battled on through his illness – honoring his memory with a performance that would have made his father proud.