A private jet carrying one of the Kontinental Hockey League’s (KHL) best teams, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl,
unexpectedly crashed shortly after takeoff near the banks of the Volga River near Tunoshna, Russia. The crash killed at least 43, many of which were former NHL players. Of the 45 members on board, 36 were players, coaches, or team officials and the other eight were crew members. The two that survived the crash were Lokomotiv player, Alexander Galimov (pictured to the right) and one crew member. While they were being transported to the hospital, they were pronounced to be in “very grave” condition according to Alexander Degyatryov, chief doctor at Yaroslavl’s Solovyov Hospital.
The flight was to take the team from their hometown to Minsk, the capital of Belarus for what would have been their season opener on Thursday, Sept. 8 against Dinamo Minskin. After taking off, the plane struggled to gain altitude and then hit a signal tower before breaking apart along the Volga River near Yaroslavl, 150 miles northeast of Moscow. One of the blue-and-white plane’s charred engines poked through the surface of the shallow water according to an ESPN report. Eyewitnesses said the plane had split apart during flight causing it to make a fatal crash landing.
The whole hockey world has been stunned by this tragic accident.
“Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world — including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates and friends,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
Many players tweeted condolences including Washington Capitals star, Alexander Ovechkin (@Ovi8) “I’m in shock!!!!! R.I.P. Philadelphia Flyers goaltender,” Ilya Bryzgalov (@bryzgoalie30) “R.I.P.#Lokomotiv #Ярославль (con’t) My deepest condolences go to families and friends of Lokomotiv. My thoughts and prayers are with wives, childrens and parents of victims… Я не могу поверить,шок,хочется проснуться, Anaheim Ducks star, Bobby Ryan,” (@B_Ryan9) “I can’t believe I’m writing another one. Thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by the KHL plane crash. Too many players gone this year,” Winnipeg Jets player, Andrew Ladd (@Aladd16) “RIP Joe Vasicek One of the nicest guys I’ve played with and always came to the rink with a smile on his face. Gone too soon #canes2006.” Some players even came back to Twitter after a long break of no tweets such as San Jose Sharks veteran, Martin Havlat (@martinhavlat) “I haven’t tweeted in a long time but want to speak today. To all the families of the Yaroslavl players, coaches and to the families of my good friends Josef Vasicek, Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek I send out my condolences and sympathies. You will never be forgotten.”
The complete list of players tweets wishing condolences to the russian players losing their lives can be found at http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=587802.
Among the players killed in this tragedy are:
-Brad McCrimmon, 52, from Canada. McCrimmon was a former Detroit Red Wings assistant who became Lokomotiv’s coach in May. He played in 1,222 NHL games between 1979-97, compiling 81 goals and 322 assists.
-Pavol Demitra, 36, from Slovakia. Demitra was a three-time NHL All-Star who helped Slovakia win a world championship bronze medal in 2003. He Scored 304 goals in 847 NHL games. Three-time Olympian.
-Ruslan Salei, 36, from Belarus. Ruslan defenseman who played in 917 NHL games, totaling 45 goals and 149 assists for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, and Detroit Red Wings.
-Stefan Liv, 30, from Sweden. Liv veteran goaltender who won Olympic gold with Sweden as a backup in 2006.
-Karlis Skrastins, 37, from Latvia. A defenseman who played in 832 NHL games, mainly for the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.
-Josef Vasicek, 30, from Czech Republic. Vasicek was a Czech forward who spent most of his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes. Karel Rachunek, 32, from Czech Republic. He also played 371 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, and won a world championship title with the Czech Republic in 2010.
*Provided by the Associated Press.
This has been the first major sports tragedy as a result of an aircraft crash in nearly 10 years. On January 27, 2001, 10 Oklahoma State University basketball team associated members, including two players died.
It has been a rough off season for the entire game of hockey with NHL players Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and recently retired Wade Belak passing away. With the beginning of the season right around the corner hopefully the tragedies will come to an end. Today has been a very tragic day especially for the sport of hockey.