An airplane carrying members of a Russian hockey team crashed Wednesday shortly after taking off, killing at least 43 people, including a number of former NHL players.
According to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, a Yak-42 plane crashed just after taking off from an airport near the city of Yaroslavl on the Volga River. A total of 45 people were on board, including 37 passengers and eight crew members.
The Kontinental Hockey League confirmed on its website that the aircraft was carrying players and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club. The team was flying to Minsk, Belarus, to open the season Thursday against Dinamo Minsk.
According to the KHL, newly-appointed head coach Brad McCrimmon, a former NHL defenseman and assistant coach, was among those killed, as were recent NHL players Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins and Alexander Vasyunov.
""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,"" said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement. ""Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished.""
Rt.com, an English-speaking Russian news outlet, reported that two people survived the crash. One, according to the report, was a crew member and the other was team member Aleksandr Galimov. Both were hospitalized with severe burns.
Reports indicate the plane failed to gain height after leaving the runway and collided with a navigation beacon before crashing about two kilometers from the airport.
The Slovakian Hockey Federation confirmed the death of Demitra, who last played in the NHL with the Canucks during the 2009-10 season. He also played for St. Louis, Los Angeles, Ottawa and Minnesota.
""It is with great sadness that we learn of the sudden passing of Pavol Demitra and his colleagues of the Lokomotiv hockey club today,"" said the Canucks in a statement. ""Pavol was dedicated and passionate about his young family and the game of hockey. Pavol was a valued teammate and member of our organization and will be sorely missed.""
Salei, a native of Belarus, was selected by Anaheim with the ninth overall pick of the 1996 draft and spent most of his NHL career with the Ducks. He also played for Florida, Colorado and Detroit, appearing in 75 games last season for the Red Wings.
Rachunek played for the Senators, Rangers and Devils, while fellow Czech Vasicek was a member of the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 during an NHL career that also included time with the Predators and Islanders.
""We are deeply saddened to learn of today's tragedy in Russia,"" said Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford in a statement. ""Josef was a key part of the Hurricanes for six years, helping us achieve some of our greatest successes. More importantly, he was a great teammate on and off the ice, and was respected as a person as well as a player.""
The Latvian-born Skrastins played for Nashville, Colorado, Florida and Dallas, most recently appearing in 74 games for the Stars this past season.
Vasyunov, a 23-year-old native of Yaroslavl, went back to play for his home team to gain experience before a likely return to the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. He played in 18 games for New Jersey last season.
""Nothing could prepare the hockey community for the devastating news it received today,"" said Devils CEO Lou Lamoriello in a statement. ""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.""
McCrimmon was a standout NHL defenseman with Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix from 1979-97. He won a Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989 and spent time as a coach in the NHL with the Islanders, Flames, Thrashers and Red Wings before taking the Lokomotiv job in May.
The KHL was opening its season on Wednesday in Ufa, but that game was canceled during the first period when news of the tragedy broke.
""First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families of the players, coaches and staff lost in today's tragedy,"" the league said in a statement. ""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.""
The KHL said the league will continue, although a decision regarding the future of the Yaroslavl club will be determined at a later date.
Wednesday's disaster is the latest in a number of sports-related plane crashes.
The most notable in the United States was the November 14, 1970, crash that killed 75 people, including most of the Marshall University football team, as well as coaches, staff, family, fans, university officials and crew.
Tweets related to the plane crash, sent out yesterday by NHLPA members:
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P ....
Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings
Been a tough summer for the world of hockey, thoughts and prayers to anyone affected by the KHL plane crash
Olli Jokinen – Calgary Flames
Deeply saddened by the tragic accident in KHL and the loss of my dear friend. My thoughts are with their families.RIP Rusty
Tyler Bozak – Toronto Maple Leafs
Thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those involved in the tragic accident in the KHL today.
Colby Armstrong – Toronto Maple Leafs
My bro Riley @rilesarmy is not on the flight in khl. Horrible loss for all on the flight. Can't believe it. Thoughts and prayers
Martin Biron – New York Rangers
Way to many players and families affected with tragic events this summer. Thoughts and prayers go out to this KHL team and their families.
Mike Rupp – New York Rangers
Absolutely disturbing news out of Russia (KHL)... Heartfelt prayers to all affected!
Max Talbot – Philadelphia Flyers
Thoughts and prayers to the KHL team and their families. I'm in shock.
Eric Fehr – Winnipeg Jets
Terrible news out of Russia today. Prayers to all the family and friends involved! #KHL
John Carlson – Washington Capitals
Gloomy day in DC and even worse news in Russia. Prayers to all the family/friends associated today. #KHL
Mike Fisher – Nashville Predators
Still can't believe the Russia plane tragedy. Praying for families and friends!
Linus Omark – Edmonton Oilers
I wish I had more chance to talk to my friend Rachunek, we play each other my last season in russia. I wish I never lose such good friend
Tyler Seguin – Boston Bruins
Horrible news to here out of russia today. Thoughts and prayers to all there family and friends
Alex Picard – Tampa Bay Lightning
Tragic accident in russia.... A another sad day for hockey this summer...RIP
Derick Brassard – Columbus Blue Jackets
Thoughts and prayers to the victims of today's tragedy in Russia
Brandon Prust – New York Rangers
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.
Matt Carle – Philadelphia Flyers
Still can't believe the tragedy that occurred in Russia...deepest sympathies to the players, coaches, and families involved #prayers #RIP
John-Michael Liles – Toronto Maple Leafs
RIP karlis and ruslan...two amazing friends, teammates, fathers, and husbands. An absolute tragedy for the hockey world...
Matt Moulson – New York Rangers
At a loss for words in expressing my true sadness for all the players/staff and families involved in tragedy overseas
Mathieu Darche – Montreal Canadiens
Horrible tragedy!!! Thoughts with families. Enough hockey tragedy this summer.
Michael Grabner – New York Islanders
Another terrible tragedy and loss to the hockey world-thoughts and prayers go out to all the families..makes my body shake thinking bout it
Eric Nystrom – Minnesota Wild
I am at an absolute loss for words...tragedy after tragedy. Why do things like this happen??
Andrew Ebbett – Vancouver Canucks
I can't even believe what happened in Russia today. So sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the players and staffs families.
Carl Gunnarsson – Toronto Maple Leafs
Unbelievable! Can't get what happened in Russia. Thinking of all the families and friends. So tragic
Andrew Ladd – Winnipeg Jets
Still in shock about the news out of Russia. Thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of everyone on the plane.
Andrew Ladd – Winnipeg Jets
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
Brendan Bell – New York Rangers
Sick to my stomach after hearing the awful news out of Russia.... Scary scary offseason. Thinking of the families of Yaroslavl players
James van Riemsdyk – Philadelphia Flyers
Terrible to hear about what happened in Russia, thoughts and prayers go out to the families
Karl Alzner – Washington Capitals
This has taken me to long to write, our prayers go out to everyone affected by the plane crash in Russia. Try to be strong! #KHL
Jamal Mayers – Chicago Blackhawks
Really speechless to hear about the KHL plane crash! All I can say is that Pavol Demitra was consummate teammate and friend...RIP...#numb
Mike Green – Washington Capitals
Heart goes out to the family's who's loved ones were in the plane crash today. Sending my prayers.
Mikael Backlund – Calgary Flames
Still can't believe that the flight crash in Russia happened today! So sad and I'm chocked. Sending all my thoughts to the players family...
Brett MacLean – Phoenix Coyotes
Thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends involved with the tragic plane crash in Russia today on
Dave Moss – Calgary Flames
Thoughts and prayers to the families of those who lost someone in the KHL plane crash, terrible summer for the hockey world
Steve Sullivan – Pittsburgh Penguins
Another sad day in the hockey world. Thoughts and prayers to those affected by today's tragic plane crash.
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
So saddened by the news of the Russian plane crash. Mixed reports of whether former teammate R. Salei was on it or not, I'm praying he wasn't
Ben Bishop – St. Louis Blues
My thoughts and prayers go out to all the friends & families who lost love ones in the planes crash in Russia... Sad day in the hockey world
Derek Roy – Buffalo Sabres
Terrible news this morning while skating, KHL team plane crash My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families involved
RJ Umberger – Columbus Blue Jackets
I am sickened over the plane crash of the #KHL hockey team.. this has been an awful summer for hockey. #RIP
Evander Kane – Winnipeg Jets
Can't believe what has happen with the KHL plane crash. Thoughts are with the players families and friends.
Bobby Ryan – Anaheim Ducks
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
Andrew Gordon - Anaheim Ducks
So hard hearing about the plane crash in russia. Hockey teams travel so much it could have been any of us. Too many tragic stories this yr.
Ryane Clowe – San Jose Sharks
Hearing the tragic news about the Russian plane crash almost brought me to my knees.. So so sad and unfair. Prayers go out to all the families.
Nathan Thompson – Tampa Bay Lightning
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
Steve Montador – Chicago Blackhawks
Prayers to all on board and their families. Tragic day “@CBCNews: Russian plane carrying KHL hockey team crashes http://t.co/7u2VPxz”
Ryan Shannon – Tampa Bay Lightning
A sad day. Thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the KHL plane crash.
Ryan Whitney – Edmonton Oilers
Terrible news of the plane crash carrying an entire KHL team. Thoughts and prayers go out to all families involved.
Scottie Upshall – Florida Panthers
Very sad news this morning in Russia - plane carrying KHL team Lokomotiv crashes. Our condolences go out 2 all victims families and friends.
Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
R.I.P. Rusty Salei. Was always real good to me. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all the other Locomotiv players families #RIP
Michael Cammalleri – Montreal Canadiens
Tough to make sense of all this loss...Pav will be missed by many...Too sad to think about the families...Tragic. RIP my friend.
Linus Omark – Edmonton Oilers
feel so so sad this day, I hope RIP for everyone from Lokomotiv team and hope everyone can pray for the families :(
Ben Maxwell – Winnipeg Jets
Really tough to hear more bad news in hockey today. My condolences go out to friends and family of those lost in Yaroslavl.
Ryan Jones – Edmonton Oilers
Can't believe what is happening this summer...Thoughts are prayers to the families and friends of the Lokomotiv team
Ilya Bryzgalov – Phoenix Coyotes
My deepest condolences go to families and friends of Lokomotiv. My thoughts and prayers are with wives, childrens and parents of victims
Steven Kampfer – Boston Bruins
Awful news to hear about when getting off the ice today. Thoughts and prayers go out to all of those players families and friends.
Logan Couture – San Jose Sharks
Heartbreaking summer for hockey. Thoughts to everyone affected by these terrible, sad events.
Bruno Gervais – Tamp Bay Lightning
Thought and prayers to an old teamate and friend Josef vasicek, an amazing teamate!
Taylor Hall – Edmonton Oilers
What an awful summer for hockey. Thoughts and prayers with the families and friends of everyone on that flight