Unbelievably tragic news today this morning. A plane crashed in Russia this morning that was carrying the entire KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and killed 43 people who were on board, including ex-NHL players Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek, Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek (who also spent a few seasons playing with the Rangers). The team's head coach, Brad McCrimmon, and assistant coaches Igor Korolev and ex-Ranger Alexander Karpovtsev were also killed on the flight.
According to TSN, the plane crashed in the Volga River near the city of Yaroslavl shortly after leaving an airport. The plane was scheduled to take the team from Yaroslavl to Minsk, where Lokomotiv was scheduled to play Dynamo Minsk on Thursday night.
"We have no team anymore," Vladimir N. Malkov, the team spokesman, said in a telephone interview with The New York Times. "All our starting players, and all the service people, they all burned in the crash."
NHL.com also spoke to Pavol Demitra's agent, Matt Keator, who confirmed Demitra's death.
"This is just awful," Matt Keator said. "He was such a popular guy with everyone he has ever played with." Keator was in Russia visiting Demitra just three weeks ago. He spent some time with the Yaroslavl team during his visit.
"I was over there three weeks ago and they were a fun bunch," Keator said. "They seemed to be a great group of guys. Very tight.
"Pavol was the best. He was very popular with all his teammates and he cared about them very much. He was very close with a lot of guys. It's just stunning. Bad things happen to good people sometimes, and this is a great example of that."
I read this story this morning around 11:30 and was just in shock when I read it. With all the tragedies that have taken the lives of NHL players and former NHL players this offseason, I seriously couldn't believe what I was reading. It's been a terrible offseason for the hockey world, and it's really left me speechless. To have almost an entire sports team die in a plane crash is a tragedy that thankfully almost never happens, so when something like this happens it's almost hard to wrap your head around it. Not only that, but it's even more eerie for this to happen just a few days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all the men who lost their lives in this plane crash. More men whose lives were taken far too soon.