The summer of 2011 has not been a happy off-season for the NHL. Recent news of the deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak shook the hockey community and started a flurry of accusation and blame through the fan community about the possible “link” in the recent deaths. However, this morning dealt an even bigger blow to the hockey world with news spreading of a plane crash in Russia that killed almost an entire KHL team.
The Lokomotiv team was in route to their opening game of the season in Minsk, Belarus. According to the NHL.com report, the entire Lokomotiv team plus 4 members of their youth roster were on board when the plane crashed at noon Moscow time. In addition, 8 crew members were reportedly killed. NHLers (past players and coaching staff) who lost their lives included: Lokomotiv head coach Brad McKrimmon (former RedWings assistant coach), assistant coaches Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev, Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek, Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins, Josef Vasicek, and Alexander Vasyunov.
According to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, the plane crashed shortly after take off, catching fire and crashing into a body of water near the runway. According to the Associated Press, witnesses saw the plane “wobbling” in the air after take off. Emergency responders rushed to the scene, pulling victims out of the water. One player, Alexander Galimov, and one crew member reportedly survived the crash, but are in critical condition.
Former Blue Pavol Demitra was confirmed as one of those who perished by his agent. Demitra was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Christer Olsson in November 1996. He played with the Blues until the 2004 lockout. In his career with the Blues, he proved to be an NHL star- making three trips to the All Star Game and winning a Lady Bing trophy during his time in St. Louis. In his career, Demitra netted 304 goals and 768 points.
Blues fans are mourning the loss of Pavol Demitra, who made an impact on young Blues fans in the 1990s. Demitra was a 20+ goal scorer in each of his full seasons with the Blues, with his high being 37 goals in a single season as a Blue. The fan favorite earned his praise while being a point earner and an All-Star. In reports of his death, those who knew him are quoted as saying he was an all around great guy, which seems to be the type of player that Blues fans are drawn to.
Igor Korolev, an assistant coach who perished today, was also a former Blue. Drafted by the Blues in 1992, Koralev spent two seasons with the Blues before being traded to the Winnipeg Jets.. In his time with the Blues, the center notched 43 points.
The Blues recently released a statement regarding the crash and the loss of their former players. Team President John Davidson relayed condolences to the families and friends of those who perished. He also stated that the team was saddened by the loss of it’s former players, and described both players as “dedicated players and their influence in St. Louis was not only felt on the ice, but throughout the community.”
Blues fans should take a minute to remember the great player that Pavol Demitra was and everything that he meant to St. Louis hockey, but should also take time to think of and remember Igor Korolev the other lives lost in today’s crash. Great lives were lost today in Russia, and this event is sure to be another tragedy of this summer in the hockey world that will be remembered and talked about for a long time.