Blog Entry

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:03 pm

(Pavol Demitra/Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

For the fourth time this summer, tragedy has struck the hockey world. This time it comes in the form of a plane crash in Russia carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team of the KHL, a team that includes many former NHL faces.

Among those who were on the roster are former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei Karlis Skrastins, Josef Vasicek and Karel Rachunek. The coaching staff was led by former Bruins, Whalers, Flyers and Red Wings defenseman Brad McCrimmon and also contained former NHL players Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev.

Plus, there were numerous others who were prospects for NHL teams. Among those was Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov, who played in 18 games for the Devils last season.

"Words cannot express what has transpired," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said. "I knew a lot of players that were on that team. Nothing could prepare the hockey community for the devastating news ... [This] has left all of us beyond words.

More on KHL crash

"[Vasyunov] wanted to go over and play a lot and come back here. He was so proud to be a Devil. I can't say enough about him."

Riley Armstrong, brother of Colby Armstrong, is part of the team but was not on the plane. He tweeted after the ordeal that he was OK.

"I'm safe, but thanks for the kind words but pray and think of the players and their families on that flight."

As you can imagine, in a league that now contains many Russian players and has its ties grow every year with Russia's top league, the responses have been numerous and distraught. Alex Ovechkin simply said "I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P ...."

Panthers defenseman and former Lokomotiv player Dmitry Kulikov was left stunned. "It's just an empty feeling. Words can't express how I feel."

Then there was Lightning defenseman Nate Thompson. "A tragic loss for the hockey world. Plane crash with an entire KHL team on board. Thoughts and prayers go out to there families and friends."

Perhaps Demitra is perhaps the best known former NHL player among the bunch. He spent most of his NHL career with the Blues, where he had his best seasons as a player. His best year was 2002-03 when he scored 36 goals and had 57 assists. He was named to three All-Star teams; 1999, 2000 and 2002. He most recently played for the Canucks in 2009-10 before moving on to the KHL.

Moreover, he developed some tremendous friendships in the NHL. The bond he created with Keith Tkachuk in St. Louis was tremendous and Tkachuk was predictably hurt.

"I am beyond devastated by the tragic news involving my good friends Brad and Pavol and the rest of their teammates in Russia. Brad was my teammate in Phoenix and later coached me in Atlanta and was truly a wonderful man who will be greatly missed. Pav was like a brother to me and I cannot believe that he is no longer with us. This is a terrible day for the hockey fraternity. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”

Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star- Tribune penned this story back in 2007 (at the bottom of the entry) about the strong bond Demitra developed with Marion Gaborik when the two were playing together for the Wild.

Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins also had lengthy stints in the NHL, even being traded for one another at one point. In the 2007-08 season, the Avalanche sent Skrastins to the Panthers in exchange for Salei. In his one full season in Florida, Skrastins had his most productive offensive year, scoring four goals and 14 assists. The tough-nosed defenseman then played his final two NHL seasons with the Stars. Terry Frei of the Denver Post chronicaled Skrastins' trip to the NHL from Latvia.

"The Dallas Stars are saddened by the loss of former defenseman Karlis Skrastins in today's tragic plane crash in Russia," the team released in a statement.

Salei spent nearly a decade playing for the Ducks in Anaheim before he was signed by the Panthers. Like Skrastins, he had his best offensive season playing with Florida, scoring six goals with 26 assists in 2006-07 before being traded the next season to Colorado.

He was playing with the Red Wings just last season, playing 75 games with Detroit.

Vasicek played parts of seven seasons in the NHL, six of those with the Carolina Hurricanes. Team captain Eric Staal had this to say about Vasicek: "Joe was an awesome guy, always in good spirits, always smiling. It's just a tragedy."

Chad LaRose echoed those sentiments. "It's a shocker, a tragedy. Joe was a great guy. A life ended too early."

Vasicek's final season in North America was with the Islanders where he played alongside Radek Martinek.

"He was one of my best buddies. He was in my wedding. I can't believe this," Martinek said.

Among the confirmed dead is former Red Wings and Flyers defenseman McCrimmon, Lokomotiv's coach. The news was just as somber in Detroit with Wings coach Mike Babcock.

McCrimmon had been an assistant with the Red Wings the past three seasons, having spent time wit the Thrashers, Flames and Islanders as an assistant as well. He left Detroit to lead the KHL team in hopes of becoming a head coach in the NHL some day.

As a defenseman, he put up some absolutely unbelievable numbers in his career. In only two of his 18 seasons did he ever record a negative plus-minus mark and he posted a career-high plus-83 in 1985-86 with the Flyers. He ended his career with a plus-444, the 10th best mark in NHL history. Each of the nine players ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

This will go down as one of the biggest, if not the biggest sports tragedies we've ever seen. About the only things I can think that compare are the plane crashes that affected the Marshall football team and Oklahoma State basketball teams. Hopefully, and we hope with every bone in our body, this is the end of what will be known as the Summer of Sorrow in hockey. This has truly been an offseason from hell and hopefully one that we never see again.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 10:43 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 1, 2010
Posted on: September 9, 2011 6:52 pm

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

It was truly a sad day for all true Hockey fans.It is a shame and my sympathies go out to the families that lost their loved ones.I think the NHL should pay tribute to these players on Jan 2nd.I hope the Flyers wear a #10 on their jerseys this year in honor of McCrimmon who was one of the best defenseman in my opinion in team history.

Since: Dec 23, 2008
Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:35 am

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

No matter who you cheer for or whether your a hockey fan or not this kind of thing happens in real life and it is NEVER easy to take in. For awhlie now I worried that the NHL might someday take the a hard hit as the KHL got bigger and more popular. That set aside all I can say is..............

Its hard to find the right words to say when you feel sadness and sorrow. I pray for the family and friends of all those lost and hope the hockey world can find a proper way to remember all the players and coaches they have lost.

RIP and God Bless

Since: Mar 31, 2008
Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:37 am

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

it's just been a terrible summer.  There are families missing fathers, brothers and sons.  That is all that matters.

God Bless and r.i.p.

Since: Jan 10, 2008
Posted on: September 9, 2011 12:07 am

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

Shows how much of a scumbag you are using this tragedy to take shots at Americans, these things happen in every country even America you jackwagon. Any tragedy thats gets the attention that this does should not be used as a tool to rip on a country and their politics. You are no better than any one you consider an ungrateful American. RIP to all in this tragedy sorry for having to waste my time on this idiot.

Since: May 15, 2009
Posted on: September 8, 2011 10:36 pm

What a tragedy!

Being in my 30's and growing up with all these player names as a fan of the nhl, it is quite shocking to hear about the sad demise of such talented men.  Just remember the odds to make it to the NHL, and to play at that level for years.  I wish their friends and families our sincerest condolences, and the best in mental health recovery!

Since: Oct 18, 2006
Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:54 pm

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

I don't care which team you root for, this affects all hockey fans. May their souls rest at ease.

As far as governments are concerned, I worked in air traffic control for over 20 years and I can tell you, things happen; electrical, mechanical, ice, bird strikes, lightning. human error and on and on. I pray for the families and friends, not to mention team mates current and past, I hope they can find some peace.

Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: September 8, 2011 5:20 pm

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash...again?

When I first saw the headline in the NHL section...I thought that there was another plane crash. It would be nice if cbssports did a better job of presenting their information. I know that they try to use as little words as possible in their headlines, but one would think that you do not want to scare people with another plane crash story. And splashing guresome pictures of the crash site was not needed. I could make due with seeing plane wreckage and bodies on a sports site.

Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: September 8, 2011 12:22 pm

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

People complain about the way they have it here in the USA.  People fear the KHL threatening the NHL and it's players....just another sad story about how ungrateful Americans are to have it the way we do here in the states.  All the stories seem to point to poor inspections, old out dated planes being used....people complain about the government getting their hands in everything, but perhaps we should reflect on this and realize some of those regulations that they create, can save lives.  

Since: Sep 8, 2009
Posted on: September 8, 2011 10:04 am

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

Truly a huge blow to the entire hockey community.
Some of these guys had played in the NHL and they will be remembered  by their fans.

Not the first time this has happened in any part of the former Soviet Union.
And our heart felt sorrow goes out to all of the families of the players and the teams staff.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or