Another tragedy struck the NHL on Wednesday and this time it hit the Dallas Stars particularly hard. Former Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins was among at least 43 people killed when a plane carrying members of the KHL hockey team Lokomotiv crashed shortly after takeoff. Several others with NHL ties were on the plane.
“This has been a hard summer for the NHL and this is obviously devastating news again,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “It hits home very hard here because Karlis was a great teammate for a lot of these guys and always gave his hardest on his ice and was very much loved by his teammates. He was a great father. This is tragic news. “
Skrastins, 37, played the last two seasons for the Stars, playing 153 games and registering 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists). He became a free agent in July and signed with Lokomotiv.
His former teammates in Dallas took the news hard.
“These guys are devastated,” said Nieuwendyk. “I know Kari Lehtonen came in this morning, heard the news and turned around and went right out of here home. I think he was close with Karlis. Everybody respected the way Karlis played and gave his all every night.”
Players started to hear the news early this morning, along with everybody else.
“It’s so sad,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “I heard the news this morning while training at the Michael Johnson center. I saw the report on the news and I was just in shock. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Karlis. It’s just too bad, leaving his wife and kids like this. It’s pretty sad. I knew (Lokomotiv head coach) Brad McCrimmon, who was with Detroit. It’s been a tough summer for the NHL. There have been a lot of deaths. I don’t know what to say.”
Forward Adam Burish sat next to Skrastins in the Stars’ locker room last season. He received an email about the crash while driving in to work out.
“Horrible news. It scary to think how many flights you’ve been on and how many flights you’ll go on this year. To have someone you know go down on one, it’s pretty scary and sad stuff,” Burish said. “He sat right next to me there last year. The day we start camp we jump on a flight and go to PEI, how do you not think about your buddy, your teammate, the guy you we’re just sitting next to in the locker room was on a flight that went down. You’ll probably always think about it. Anytime you play with a guy, have a relationship with a guy, anytime you go on a flight you may think about it a little bit.”
Burish remembered Skrastins as a fierce competitor on the ice and a gentleman off it.
“He was a kind, kind, kind man,” Burish said. “Quiet, always said ‘Hi’ in the morning and always said ‘Bye’when he left the rink. Just a kind, gentle guy. Just a freak on the ice. The ultimate competitor, played through anything tough. Just a kind, kind guy.”