Cross Checks: Lokomotiv plane crash

Stars will honor Skrastins with '37' decal

September, 14, 2011
The Dallas Stars will wear a "37" decal on the back of their helmets this season in memory of defenseman Karlis Skrastins, the former Star who died last week in the crash of a plane carrying the KHL team Lokomotiv.

Skrastins wore No. 37 the last two seasons for the Stars.

The Stars also said they will hold a short remembrance and moment of silence prior to the team's first home preseason game on Sept. 22 against Colorado. They will honor Skrastins, former Avalanche players Wade Belak and Ruslan Salei, as well as the other NHL players and alumni who passed away this summer.

Salei was killed in the KHL plane crash and Belak was found dead in Toronto earlier this month.

The club also said Monday that defenseman Brad Lukowich, who was scheduled to wear No. 37 this season, will change his number to 47.

KHL president addresses Lokomotiv future

September, 13, 2011
Kontinental Hockey League president Alexander Medvedev's remarks on the future of the Lokomotiv team:

"Let me begin by highlighting the main conclusions of my recent meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. First of all, government assistance will be provided to the victims' families in the amounts listed in the players' contracts with the KHL. Additionally, given the disparities in compensation among the hockey players, a minimum level will be established for compensation sums. The families of players with smaller contracts will receive sums that are significantly above those stated in their contracts. Additional resources are being allocated for this purpose since the Lokomotiv team could have compensated the families for the contractual sums from sponsorship funds by itself.

"Second of all, we reached a decision on the rehabilitation of the Lokomotiv team. Based on the recommendation of the team itself and Russian Railways, Lokomotiv will not play in the KHL this season. As a result of this decision, we are currently discussing ways to rebuild the team following the catastrophic loss. President Medvedev very correctly said that hockey-related issues should be addressed by the appropriate bodies and organizations, granting the KHL, the KHL players' union and the Ministry of Sport authority to make appropriate changes based on the existing team's structure. The team's president Yuri Yakovlev recommended the team continue playing in the youth league this season. The team hopes to rebuild the team for participation in VHL [farm club league] games by December. With this in mind, the team also asked for a guaranteed spot in the season's playoffs. Yuri Nikolayevich also asked if the team could be guaranteed a spot in the KHL playoffs next season. The league is prepared to make this decision, but is unsure whether the team will require the spot next season. This, however, is more a question of time than anything else because I am certain that the team will be back at its prime competing form within a year.

"Lokomotiv's request to be excluded from the junior draft, to keep and continue training the team's remaining young players is, in my opinion, easily granted. With this in mind, junior players from the team will still be included in the KHL's scouting bureau but will not be considered for the draft.

"More complex questions regarding the team's formation and recruitment efforts given that the team will start in the VHL and later transition to the KHL, await further discussions that will begin shortly. We have agreed to begin preparatory work as soon as the grieving period ends. I believe that we will prepare and agree upon necessary changes to the structures and rules of the KHL, VHL and MHL.

"The KHL already has a new calendar for 23 teams. Like last year, the teams in Lokomotiv's division will continue to play games against each other. This will also minimally impact the Euro Tour games. We did, however, discuss the subject with Vladislav Tretiak and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov who said they would be willing to accommodate our needs for the Euro Tour.

"In regards, to flights I must highlight that President Medvedev did take into account the fact that athletes travel significantly in Russia, often by air. At this time, the KHL is preparing a recommendation to centralize team flights using the most state-of-the-art international and Russian carriers. I must also note that leading Russian companies, including Gazprom, use Yak-42 airplanes for their travel purposes. These are large and comfortable carriers. However, we now have the opportunity to cost-effectively transition to a more centralized system of air travel. The KHL is prepared to grant member clubs two-month pay advances to cover air travek expenses. I believe that we can transition to this new system of travel within two weeks.

"NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed his sympathy to me following this major tragedy for the entire sport of hockey. Now, even though we have disagreements, the KHL and NHL are coming together to help the sport of hockey recover from this tragic loss. Cooperation is now more important than ever and we hope that it continues even after the initial emotional response to the crash. Gary and I agreed to meet and discuss mutual cooperation in the near future.

"Yesterday, when the KHL season resumed, we all saw how difficult it was for the players to compete. Hockey, like any other high-achieving sport, requires maximum concentration and the players had a difficult time concentrating in light of the psychological impact of this tragedy. Nevertheless, the players persevered and showed that hockey is a resilient and strong sport.

"We all now face difficult times. At the same time, however, we see people expressing their support by attending hockey games with Lokomotiv scarves and rooting for the team. Even the club's competitors are now rooting for the team and supporting its efforts to rebuild. In Russia, however, only a major loss is capable of deeply touching people. It is important not to lose sight of the feelings we experienced as a result of this tragedy and continue to respect one another in the future. I believe that all clubs, players and fans are behaving appropriately human and this is very important, regardless of how emotions are expressed. Without a doubt, hockey will help us live through this tragedy and that is more important than anything else."

Ruslan Salei's wife releases statement

September, 9, 2011
Ruslan Salei
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Anaheim Ducks released a statement from Bethann Salei, the wife of Ruslan Salei, on Friday. Ruslan was one of 43 people killed in Wednesday's plane crash involving the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team:

"On behalf of the Salei family, I want to express my sincere thanks to the entire hockey community, including all of Ruslan's friends and fans, for the overwhelming love and support. While this is an extremely difficult time for us, the outpouring of affection our family has received has been comforting. As much as Ruslan enjoyed playing hockey, he loved the camaraderie he had with his teammates, the team staffs, and the fans that much more.

"Ruslan was the love of my life, and I'm extremely grateful to have our three beautiful children. He treasured his family life with us, and we miss him dearly."

Watch: Dynamo's tribute to Lokomotiv

September, 9, 2011

When the Russian Yak-42 jet crashed on Wednesday, it was carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players to their season opener against Dynamo Minsk.

With the KHL season postponed until Monday, Dynamo chose to honor the Lokomotiv team on the ice on Thursday night during the time they would have been playing.

All of the tickets for the soldout game were used as more than 15,000 people gathered at Minsk Arena for the ceremony, according to Russia Today.

A memorial ceremony for victims of the crash will be held Saturday at Lokomotiv Yaroslavl's hockey arena.

All but one of the 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players traveling to Belarus was killed in the crash. Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crew member. Both are said to be critical.

Watch: Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tribute

September, 8, 2011
Video courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings.

Few sports are more tight-knit and interwoven than hockey. Players, coaches, GMs and scouts travel the same rinks from one corner of the world to another and, at some point in time, cross paths.

Which is why when word spread about Wednesday's tragic event, it hit close to home for so many in the hockey world.

So many in the sport had a connection to at least one of the victims in Wednesday's tragic plane crash that killed members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL club.

[+] EnlargeBrad McCrimmon
Zalmanis ZigismundsBrad McCrimmon was among the 43 people who died in Wednesday's plane crash.

"This affects the entire hockey community," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told on Wednesday. "It's a real sad day for the hockey world."

Holland lost a former Wings player and assistant coach in Brad McCrimmon, who coached the Lokomotiv squad, as well as defenseman Ruslan Salei, who played in Detroit last season.

McCrimmon went to Russia to follow his dream of being a head coach. Before making his way to Russia this offseason, he sought advice from former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Barry Smith. Smith, now head coach of Lugano in Switzerland, coached in Russia for many years.

"Brad wanted to know what to expect in Russia, and I mentioned to him how difficult travel was because of all the time zones," Smith told from Switzerland on Wednesday. "Brad was really excited about the opportunity to be a head coach. It's really sad."

Smith said he was sure he traveled on the same type of Yak-42 jet that crashed Wednesday, but he was clear in not wanting to point the finger at the KHL.

"I never felt unsafe or threatened while working in St. Petersburg," Smith said. "The travel was very difficult, and the time-zone changes were a nightmare. The airplane I flew for three seasons was the same one which crashed. The pilots we had were amazing; we landed on every kind of tarmac there was. Everyone is tremendously saddened by today's crash, and we send our prayers and condolences to all the families."

McCrimmon was a terrific, two-way defenseman and a Cup champion in 1989 with the Calgary Flames.

"I remember first playing with him at the 1978 world juniors on Team Canada," Wayne Gretzky told on Wednesday. "I remember thinking he was such a good player. We became good friends. [He was] just a really good person and all-around nice guy. This is really tragic for his family and everyone who knew him."

McCrimmon made a smooth transition behind the bench, where he was liked by his players.

"I've known Brad going back to the late '80s when we acquired him here," Holland said. "He was a real popular player. Then we had him as an assistant coach here. He loved hockey. He was a tremendous guy and wonderful family man. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife, Maureen, and two children."

Alexander Karpovtsev was also among the victims. He played his best hockey with the New York Rangers, winning a Stanley Cup with the club in 1994.

"He was a really, really solid defenseman," Gretzky said of his former Rangers teammate. "When he put his mind to it, he was one of those top-echelon guys that was hard to play against defensively. He had a pretty good shot and moved the puck pretty well."

Every player and coach on the flight had a story. They all had ties around the hockey world. They all will be missed.

"Something like this is so tragic," Gretzky said. "We're fortunate given all the teams that travel worldwide that we haven't had more tragedies like this, and hopefully it'll be more than 100 years before it happens again."

Alexander Karpovtsev dies in crash

September, 7, 2011
Alexander Karpovtsev, a rookie defenseman on the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup winning team in 1994, was killed in the plane crash in Russia on Wednesday that claimed most of the KHL team Lokomotiv.

Karpovtsev, 41, was serving as an assistant coach for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He played 12 seasons in the NHL with the Rangers, Toronto, Chicago, the Islanders and Florida.

"We stand together with the entire KHL, NHL and hockey world in mourning today's tragic news concerning the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team," the Hawks said in a statement. "The tragedy affects the Chicago Blackhawks family directly as we mourn the losses of Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev, two players who spent time with our organization and that our fans know well. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization."

Karpovtsev and three Rangers teammates were the first Russian players to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. He had three goals and 15 assists with a plus-minus of 12 that season.

Korolev, also 41, was a Hawk from 2001-04. In 12 NHL seasons with St. Louis, the Winnipeg-Phoenix franchise, Toronto and Chicago, he scored 119 goals in 795 games.

[+] EnlargeLokomitiv Crash
AP Photo/Misha JaparidzePlayers from Lokomotiv of the KHL were aboard a plane that crashed on the banks of the Volga River, killing at least 43.
Alexander Vasyunov, who played 18 games for the New Jersey Devils last season, was also among those who died, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed. Vasyunov was 23.

"I don't think anybody can prepare for something like this," Lamoriello said. "It's just devastating news. Words can't express my personal feelings."

Vasyunov left the Devils in the offseason to sign with Lokomotiv.

The KHL team was flying to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to take on Dinamo Minsk on Thursdsay night in their season opener. But the plane crashed into a river bank while taking off in western Russia, killing at least 43 and leaving two others injured, officials told The Associated Press.

"I can't say enough about him as a young man," Lamoriello said of Vasyunov. "He certainly had talent. His whole career was in front of him."

Vasyunov compiled one goal and four assists for the Devils last season. A left winger, he was selected by the team in the second round (No. 58 overall) of the 2006 NHL draft.

A Czech embassy official has also confirmed the deaths of Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek. Rachunek played for the Devils and Rangers, and Vasicek last played in the NHL for the Islanders.

Rachunek, a defenseman, appeared in 47 games with New Jersey in 2007-08, compiling four goals and nine assists. He also played with the Rangers in parts of the 2003-04 and 2006-07 seasons, compiling seven goals and 23 assists in 78 games.

The 32-year-old native of Zlinwaldow, Czech Republic, appeared in 371 career NHL games, compiling 22 goals and 118 assists. He was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the ninth round (229th overall) of the 1997 NHL draft. He played parts of five season in Ottawa.

Vasicek, a center, appeared in 81 games for the Islanders in 2007-08, getting 16 goals and 19 assists.

The 30-year-old native of Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic, appeared in 460 career NHL games, compiling 77 goals and 106 assists. He was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round (91st overall) of the 1998 draft. He played with the Hurricanes for six seasons.

"On behalf of the entire Devils organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the entire Lokomotiv club," Lamoriello said in a statement issued by the Devils.

Another tragedy struck the NHL 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.

"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."

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Video courtesy of Dallas Stars

Agent Matt Keator was in Russia three weeks ago visiting with longtime client Pavol Demitra.

He watched KHL team Lokomotiv play, had dinner with the team's owner and general manager and said there was a positive buzz around the group.

"There was a lot of energy around those guys," Keator told Wednesday morning. "There was a lot of excitement around the team. They thought they could win a championship."

On Wednesday, a Russian jet carrying Demitra and Lokomotiv crashed into a river bank while taking off in western Russia, killing at least 43 people and leaving two others critically injured. The team was headed from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of its season.

"It was a very, very good team," Keator said. "It's just stunning and just awful."

Keator met Demitra when the two were with the St. Louis Blues organization, Keator as a scout and Demitra as a successful player.

"You couldn't find a more popular teammate," Keator said.

"It's just that people were drawn to him."

Demitra was married with two children under the age of 10, a boy and a girl, Keator said.

During his trip to Russia, Keator saw many former NHLers who were connected with the team, including head coach Brad McCrimmon and assistant Igor Korolev, who also had ties to the Blues.

"These were longtime NHL guys," Keator said.

McCrimmon took over the team in May after serving as an assistant for the Detroit Red Wings for three seasons. He played 18 years in the NHL for Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix.

"It's shocking," Wings GM Ken Holland told "I think everybody in the hockey community is probably in shock and numb, myself included. I've known Brad [McCrimmon] going back to the late '80s when we acquired him here. He was a real popular player. Then we had him as an assistant coach here. He loved hockey. He was a tremendous guy and wonderful family man."

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Reaction to Lokomotiv plane crash

September, 7, 2011

Reactions from around the hockey world after Wednesday's plane crash in Russia:

KHL statement:

"We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club and the international hockey community. First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families and friends of the players, coaches and staff lost in today's tragedy.

"We know that there are many in the KHL family who will be grieving with us. As the investigation of this tragedy progresses we will work closely with investigators, government officials, club executives and the Yaroslavl community. We are working to find an appropriate way to honor this club and begin the healing process from the deep loss so many of us feel today.

"We are aware that many of you have questions. This tragedy remains our primary focus. We ask for patience as we find an appropriate way to proceed with the 2011/2012 season. We will continue to communicate our plans as they take shape."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:

"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 who at one time excelled in our League. Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished."

Pavol Demitra's agent Matt Keator to

On Demitra: "You couldn't find a more popular teammate. It's just that people were drawn to him."

On the team: "There was a lot of energy around those guys. There was a lot of excitement around the team. They thought they could win a championship.

"It was a very, very good team. It's just stunning and just awful."

Former NHL and KHL coach Barry Smith to

"Before Brad McCrimmon went over, he came to see me to ask about what to expect. I mentioned to him how difficult travel was because of all the time zones. Brad was really excited about the opportunity to be a head coach. It's really sad.

"Concerning my Russian experience, I never felt unsafe or threatened while working in St. Petersburg. The travel was very difficult and the time zone changes [seven time zones] were a nightmare. The airplane I flew for three seasons was the same one which crashed. The pilots we had were amazing, we landed on every kind of tarmac there was.

"Everyone is tremendously saddened by today's crash and we send our prayers and condolences to all the families."

Red Wings GM Ken Holland to

"It's shocking. I think everybody in the hockey community is probably in shock and numb, myself included. I've known Brad [McCrimmon] going back to the late 80s when we acquired him here. He was a real popular player. Then we had him as an assistant coach here. He loved hockey. He was a tremendous guy and wonderful family man. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife Maureen and two children.

"Our thoughts and prayers go to everybody who had family on that plane. This affects the entire hockey community. It's a real sad day for the hockey world."

IIHF President René Fasel:

"This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community with some many nationalities involved. Our thoughts and prayers are with family and friends of the victims.

"Despite the substantial air travel of professional hockey teams, our sport has been spared from tragic traffic accidents. But only until now. This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from ten nations."

Keith Tkachuk:

"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."

NHLPA statement:

"Everyone within the NHLPA family is deeply saddened by the tragic passing today of players, coaches and staff from the KHL hockey club, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The club included many former NHLPA members, as well as many members of the international hockey community. Words cannot express the profound sorrow that this loss has created. Our sincere condolences go out to the friends and families who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy."

Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk:

"The Dallas Stars family is shocked and saddened by the passing of Karlis Skrastins and so many other young lives in a plane crash in Russia today. Our thoughts and prayers are with Karlis' wife Zane and his two daughters, Karolina and Laurena, as well as all of the families and friends who lost loved ones on the plane. Karlis was a wonderful father and husband, as well as a good friend. He will be greatly missed."

Devils President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello:

"Nothing could prepare the hockey community for the devastating news it received today. The tragic plane crash involving Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League has left all of us beyond words.

"I had the pleasure of knowing several members of the team, plus the entire coaching staff. In particular, Alexander Vasyunov, who played for us last season, was an outstanding young man and a gifted athlete. Captain Karel Rachunek skated for us in 2007-08. Both were members of the Devils family.

"On behalf of the entire Devils organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the entire Lokomotiv club."

San Jose Sharks statement:

"We are very saddened to report that the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry has published a list stating that Sharks prospect Daniil Sobchenko was aboard the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane that crashed today in Yaroslavl, Russia. Daniil attended our development camp this past July and everyone on our staff agreed that he had a bright future with our organization. He was an amazing person with a fun-loving personality and his attitude and energy during his time in San Jose was infectious. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.

"This is a difficult day for the hockey world. Many people in our organization had existing relationships with other Lokomotiv players, coaches and staff members. We send our sincere condolences to their families as well."

Chicago Blackhawks statement:

"We stand together with the entire KHL, NHL and hockey world in mourning today's tragic news concerning the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team. The tragedy effects the Chicago Blackhawks family directly as we mourn the losses of Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev, two players who spent time with our organization and that our fans know well. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization."

Los Angeles Kings statement:

"The Los Angeles Kings organization is deeply saddened with the tragic news of this morning's plane crash in Russia that was carrying the members of the KHL's Lokomotiv organization, including former Kings forward Pavol Demitra, former Kings prospect Jan Marek and many other members of the NHL Family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends of those affected by this terrible occurrence."

Colorado Avalanche statements:

President Pierre Lacroix: "The entire Colorado Avalanche organization is deeply saddened by this morning's horrific news regarding the Kontinental Hockey League's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

"Moreover, we are all in a state of shock regarding the deaths of former Avalanche defensemen Karlis Skrastins and Ruslan Salei. Our thoughts and prayers go out their families as well as those involved in this devastating incident."

Executive Advisor/Alternate Governor Joe Sakic: "I am still in disbelief about today's tragic news. Both Karlis and Ruslan were unbelievable individuals and great teammates. They will be sorely missed. My condolences go out to their families and all those affected in this tragedy."

St. Louis Blues president John Davidson:

"On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place today in Russia involving the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club. The entire hockey community has been affected by this news and our most heart-felt condolences go out to the families of those who perished.

"The St. Louis Blues have lost two members of our family, Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families as well. Pavol and Igor were both incredibly passionate and dedicated players and their influence in St. Louis was not only felt on the ice, but throughout the community."

Anaheim Ducks statement:

"The Anaheim Ducks organization is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Ruslan Salei. 'Rusty' was a fan favorite and dedicated member of the Orange County community since being drafted by Anaheim in 1996. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife and three children, along with all of the other members of the hockey community affected by this horrible tragedy."

NHL players react on Twitter:

"Way too many players and families affected with tragic events this summer. Thoughts and prayers go out to this KHL team and their families." -- @martybiron43

"It's a sad day." - Nicklas Lidstrom via @DetroitRedWings

"I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P ...." -- @ovi8

"Very difficult to lose close friends. May they rest in peace. You will always be remembered." -- @ovi8 tweeted in Russian. Translation by @SergeyKocharov

"Thoughts and prayers to the KHL team and their families. I'm in shock." --@Max25talbot

"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." -- @b_ryan9

"Devastating News. Plane Crash in Russia had some of my great NHL buddies on it. Sad." -- @Jeremy_Roenick

"Hearing the tragic news about the Russian plane crash almost brought me to my knees.. So so sad and unfair." -- @ryaneclowe29

"The hockey world mourns yet again. Please God, we can't take much more.Thoughts and prayers in Russia and to all friends and family." -- @BrandonPrust8

"Another sad day in the hockey world. Thoughts and prayers to those affected by today's tragic plane crash." -- @Sullivan26

"Tough to write this one.Thoughts and prayers to families and friends of players lost.Former teammate Joe Vasicek and others-RIP." -- @aaronward_nhl

"Heartbreaking summer for hockey. Thoughts to everyone affected by these terrible, sad events." -- @Logancouture