Ducks' Visnovsky remembers his close friend Pavol Demitra
The high-scoring Ducks defensemanreturned to Southern California from his native Slovakia on Friday night after attending the funeral of his close friend and national teammate Pavol Demitra.
Demitra, who played for several NHL teams, including the Kings, died in the plane crash Sept. 7 in Russia. The crash took the lives of 44 people, including all of the players of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team in the KHL.
His friendship with Demitra goes back some 20 years and their wives are also close.
“I wake up at 4:30 -– can’t sleep,” said Visnovsky, who arrived at Honda Center in Anaheim a few hours later for his medical tests. “This last day was tough for me and for my family and for people in Slovakia. It’s hard to say something. He was one of my best friends. I know his family and I know his kids.
“His wife is very strong wife. Before I leave, I tell her, ‘Anything you need, I will help you any time.’”
Visnovsky played with Demitra as recently as last spring, at the world championships in Slovakia. They first met when they were teenagers and Visnovsky remembered that the forward was skilled in every sport he played.
A mutual friend heard about the plane crash and tracked down called Visnovsky, who happened to be taking care of some business at the United States embassy in Bratislava.
“After that, I don’t remember nothing,” Visnovsky. “I don’t remember how they gave me the passport, the visa. I don’t remember anything, how I [got] home."
Photo: Candles are placed around a poster of Pavol Demitra at the Ice Hockey Stadium in Trencin on Sept. 8. Credit: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Getty Images