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Demitra article circa 2003

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07-08-2006, 12:49 AM
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blues_demitra38
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Demitra article circa 2003

Whats up guys, Blues fan here congratulating you on a superb acquisition. Im glad he gets to play for a classy franchise and that he gets to don that sweet red third jersey which I might need to purchase.

He made guys like Conroy and Frolov play at an All Star level when they were together and you can see how that team did when he went down with injuries, freak injuries might I add. Contrary to popular belief he is not injury prone. Hes battled the flu in his last few seasons with the Blues and was the victim of a head hunting in Phoenix where Ballard blind sighted him before heading to the Olympics to get a puck to the eye. He is tougher than most give him credit for so the injury prone knock against him cannot and should not be used.

Finally, I just thought you guys would enjoy this article from a few seasons back, just to show you what type of player you'll be getting. The Wild were my second favorite team ever since that run in 2003 and bringing in Demitra solidifies that.

Have fun watching what will be the most exciting and promising season this franchise has seen, you certainly deserve it.

http://www.stlouisblues.com/columnists/lw_030403.html



Demitra's Soccer Skills Make
For Memorable Goal
By Larry Wigge

(4/03/03)

It was one of those plays that you see in a highlight reel, where you squirm as it unfolds ... and then suddenly you find yourself out of your seat cheering.

With just over two minutes gone in an overtime game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim March 20, St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis fired a shot at goaltender Martin Gerber. The rebound came out to Pavol Demitra, who controlled the puck with his skates like soccer Hall of Famer Pele might have done in his glory days.

Time always seems to be ticking faster and faster when a team gets the puck in close when the game is on the line like it was against the Mighty Ducks, but when a skillful player like Demitra kicks the puck from his skates to his stick time almost stands still in anticipation of something special happening.

Now it's the moment of truth.

Even though Demitra has the puck at a bad angle, star players always seem to find a way of making something out of nothing like a slight of hand game of magic. Trying to figure out where the puck is and where it will end up is all part of the excitement, the drama.

Finally, Demitra makes his move -- he starts to go behind the Anaheim net , then stops and faster than you can say abracadabera, Pavol reaches in behind a defenseman who was chasing him and slides the puck behind a startled Gerber.

''I practice that move all the time,'' Demitra says with a shrug afterward.

''It's a quick reaction play to try to catch your opponent flat-footed.''

Sorry, but that explanation doesn't compute -- to me or most ordinary human beings.

''I would have been standing behind the net, trying to figure out what I was going to do next ,'' says teammate Dallas Drake, shaking his head in disbelief at the special play he had just seen. ''Some might say what makes Pavol so special is his playmaking ability or his ability to get his shot off quickly. To me, it's his brain. He's like a chess master, thinking a play or two ahead in the game. Not many players can do that.''

Says Gerber: ''I don't know how he thought of that move so quickly. I guess I'll make the plays of the week -- maybe plays of the year -- getting embarrassed by that move.''

Like Gerber, I can't get that play out of my mind.

I remember seeing Mario Lemieux skates through a couple of defenders and then fire the puck through his legs top shelf one time and I remember seeing Jaromir Jagr beat every member of the Chicago Blackhawks before scoring a goal against Ed Belfour in the 1992 Stanley Cup finals.

And this one ranks right up there with those.

For six-plus seasons now with the Blues, Demitra has danced around opponents and been on the borderline of stardom. His team-leading 33 goals and 88 points with just three games left this season are another testament to his consistency.

But this season, Pavol has risen to a different level -- sparking the Blues top line with Scott Mellanby and Keith Tkachuk and showing a great deal of leadership when so many of the team's best players were out of the lineup in a season of adversity.

''His one-on-one skills are remarkable,'' says Tkachuk. ''He always seems to hit a hit and have the vision to find Mel or myself breaking into scoring position.''

''You better keep your stick on the ice when Pavol's out there, because he's going to hit it,'' Mellanby adds.

''I've marveled at some of the things a Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky did with the puck and I watched Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg night-in and night-out do some amazing things when I was with Colorado,'' Blues Coach Joel Quenneville says. ''Watching Pavol over these past two years game-in, game-out, I don't think there's any question he has reached that same elite level.

''Playing with Walt and Mel, I think we are seeing a more relaxed Pav. And when he is relaxed, he seems to be more creative -- and that has been fun to watch.''

Playing with Tkachuk and Mellanby has also been challenging for Demitra -- for a guy who is used to keeping to himself and just enjoys playing the game.

''I think Walt has pushed Pav to open up,'' Drake laughs. ''He is constantly pushing ... and needling him. I think he has made him tougher, mentally and physically.''

And like a cocoon who turns into a beautiful butterfly, Demitra's talents have blossomed.

''Pavol Millions,'' Tkachuk laughs, referring to Demitra's next contract negotiations.

Or maybe it's the millions of moves Demitra seems to dazzle us with.

For six-plus seasons we've been dazzled by Demitra's talents on the ice, but we've learned little about the guy behind those marvelous skills.

I'll bet you didn't know that Pavol Demitra's wife, Maja, is less than a month away from delivering their first child -- a boy. I'll bet you didn't know that Pavol's Dad was a star soccer player and when he was 15, Pavol had a tough decision whether to choose soccer over hockey. And I'll bet you didn't know that in Slovakia, Pavol's garage is bigger than his house.

This multi-talented Blue obviously loves life, loves his association with Tkachuk and Mellanby and the Blues -- and you can bet he will take less than market value to stay in St. Louis.

''My wife and I love the city, love the people,'' Demitra says. ''The people are so friendly. It's like a little bit of Slovakia, a home away from home. I want my son to someday see me play for the Blues. That would be something else.''

At his wedding a couple of years ago, Demitra's friends came from all over -- even a few of his teammates from Canada and United States traveled all the way to Slovakia.

The biggest surprise?

''Some of my friends got together and hired Elan, the No. 1 group in Slovakia, to play at our wedding,'' Demitra recalls. ''It was a day I'll never forget.''

A quiet leader on the Blues, Demitra seems taken aback by the tidbits I have mentioned about his life, his decision to play hockey over soccer and his love for cars.

''You've been talking to Peter Stastny,'' says a wide-eyed Demitra. ''I have been a very lucky man. Lots of good friends.''

Demitra chose hockey because of the speed and action and the creativity.

''It wasn't really a tough decision,'' Demitra says. ''Hockey was always my first love. But I still play soccer a little to keep in shape in the summer, although I play more tennis and golf is fast becoming a passion of mine.''

''He doesn't just dabble at tennis,'' says Minnesota Wild winger Marian Gaborik. ''I think I'm pretty good at it, but I have NEVER beaten Pavol -- and that drives me crazy.''

From soccer to tennis to golf, this Blues man for all seasons may be better at tennis than he lets on.

''There are about 50 Slovakian hockey players who either play in the NHL or professionally in Europe and each summer we have a tennis tournament,'' Demitra says. ''I've won that tournament twice -- the last time was two summers ago -- and last summer I won the doubles competition with Michal Handzus.''

Now you know where all of those athletic moves come from.

But what about that big garage? A car for all reasons?

''Well, I wouldn't say that,'' Demitra laughs. ''I wasn't a kid who grew up tinkering with cars (''That's what mechanics are for.''), but I always liked them -- and hockey has given me the opportunity to collect some of my favorites.''

So, we know Pavol wasn't a grease monkey and he is only into speed on the ice, not on the road like San Jose Sharks forward Teemu Selanne, who has raced cars and owns every fast automobile known to man.

In fact, you probably wouldn't be able to guess what car of the nine he owns is his favorite.

''My army Jeep,'' Demitra says smiling. ''It gets me anywhere I want to go.''

And that comes in handy at home.

''His house is in the middle of nowhere,'' Stastny tells us.

''Nah ... '' warns Demitra. ''It's about 10 miles from Trencin. Where Marian Gaborik, Lubomir Sekaris, Robert Svehla, Ziggy Palffy, Miroslav Satan and Marian and Marcel Hossa come from. ... But there are a lot of hills between my house and the city.''

For now, however, the only mountain Demitra is interested in climbing is the road to the Stanley Cup. He is a man who thrives on challenges -- and a couple of years ago he was stung by the criticism that he would disappear in the playoffs.

''One year,'' he says. ''One year I was healthy and didn't play so well. Another year I was recovering from concussions and another year I couldn't move too well because of a severe hamstring injury. But I'm not looking for excuses.

''I think last year I proved (with 11 points in 10 playoff games) that I was strong in the playoffs -- and I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN.''

I asked if he felt he was a different Pavol Demitra.

''I'm older ... more confident ... more comfortable,'' he says. ''Different man? I probably am -- and that's because of Mel and Walt and the way they step up for me. I've never had that before. It's a good feeling. It makes me want to be my best.

''And that makes me a different player, a different person. A better player -- and a better person.''

It's hard to be much better than Pavol Demitra has for the Blues this season.

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