ST. LOUIS — The hockey community lost Pavol Demitra 12 years ago at the age of 36.
He will never be forgotten, but for the last few weeks, he's been remembered quite a bit.
The St. Louis Blues hope they drafted a few more players just like Demitra from Slovakia.
Demitra was a highlight film waiting to happen. In his eight seasons with the Blues, he never scored less than 20 goals.
His nearly 500 career points ranked No. 7 all-time in the team's history.
"I couldn't believe how skilled he was," Keith Tkachuk said.
"I especially remember one penalty shot he did against Russia," Blues' 10th overall pick Dalibor Dvorsky said. "One of the most famous penalty shots ever in Slovakia"
"He was so unselfish, that doesn't happen very often. He was more happy getting an assist than he was scoring a goal," Tkachuk said.
Demitra from Slovakia and Tkachuk from Boston were born 4,000 miles apart. They became not only linemates but best friends.
"He was a quiet kid when I got here. For us to be successful, we had to get him out of his shell and make him feel important with the team to be part of that group," Tkachuk said. "By the end of our playing days, I couldn't get him to shut up. I turned a good kid into a monster, in a good way."
On Sept. 7, 2011, a passenger aircraft carrying Demitra and his teammates crashed near Yaroslavl, Russia. He was survived by his wife, two children and unborn son Tobias.
Slovakia and the rest of the world were in shock.
The Blues first-round pick this year, Dalibor Dvorsky, and third-round pick, Juraj Pekarcik, both remembered the event when they were just five years old.
"I was watching on TV news," Pekarcik said.
"It was such a sad day for all of Slovakia," Dvorsky said.
"It was crushing, it was. Then it was kind of a blur," Tkachuk said.
Demitra wasn't just a really good hockey player from Slovakia, he was an inspiration to many young players who put on the skates for the first time.
He showed if he can make it, maybe they could too.
"He gave hope to young players in Slovakia," Pekarcik said.
"Pav is the kind of like the head mafia guy over there, we call him the Slovakia mafia, he's got a rink out there and he is just a legend that lives on. I think of the hometown of Pavol Demitra," Tkachuk said. "Dvorsky kind of reminds me of Pavol and has some great qualities that Pav had and you can see it on the ice right now."
A few years after his death, Tkachuck went to Slovakia to spend time with Pavol's family to let them know what he meant to him.
Now as he watches from the stands, seeing the players from the same town as Pavol and some with the same skill set, Tkachuk can remember his friend again.
"I loved playing with him and I thought he was an incredible talent and he turned out to be an incredible person. Somebody I'll always miss and glad we had the opportunity to play together," Tkachuk said.