Longtime NHL forward Pavol Demitra is being honored in a series of charity exhibition games in Slovakia this week, nearly three years after he and 43 other passengers died in a plane crash in Yaroslavl, Russia.
A group of Slovakian All-Stars and alumni from the St. Louis Blues, along with others including Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, are participating in three games to raise money for grass-roots hockey in Slovakia. The Slovak Stars defeated the Blues alumni 9-8 in a shootout in the first game Wednesday in Poprad. Game 2 will be played Friday in Trencin, followed by the final game Saturday in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
Peter Stastny started the first game on the Slovak Stars team alongside his brother Anton Stastny, but switched jerseys in the second period and played with his son, Yan Stastny, for the St. Louis Blues Alumni Team.
Peter Stastny, 57, was not the oldest player participating in the event; John Wensink, who first played in the NHL in 1973-74 with the Blues, is 61.
"I told the other guys in our dressing room how happy I was about this event," Stastny said. "I think that with this game, we set the standard which can make all of us proud. It was a memorable night and the players were excited. I had a great experience, one of the best of my life. I was playing on one line with Peter Bondra and my brother Anton, and we thought back to times when we used to play together for the Slovak national team. It's lovely. I am sure that Demitra was here with us tonight; he would have had great times."
The game was stopped in the 38th minute to honor Demitra. All the lights in the arena were turned off and his No. 38 was displayed above center ice.
"I am glad that we could pay tribute to [Pavol] this way," Chara said. "The other good thing was the game was a sellout. It shows people here love hockey. Playing with all these stars from both teams was a great honor for me."
Miroslav Satan, who played 15 seasons in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston, was named the first star of the game. He had four goals in regulation and the game-winning goal in the shootout.