September 7, 2011

Tragic plane crash claims KHL team, former Bruin McCrimmon

by Jesse Connolly

Brad McCrimmon patrolled the B's blueline for three seasons. (Getty)

A plane carrying the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed on Wednesday in western Russia. Former Bruins defenseman Brad McCrimmon, the team’s head coach, was one of the many lives claimed by the tragic accident.

At least 43 people are believed to be dead. According to Russian aviation officials, two passengers survived the crash and are in critical condition, including forward Alexander Galimov.

The plane, a Yak-42, crashed immediately after taking off from an airport near Yaroslavl. The team was departing for Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where they were set to partake in their first game of the season on Thursday.

McCrimmon, 52, was set to embark on his first year as the team’s coach after spending 12 of the last 14 years as an assistant with the Islanders, Flames, Thrashers and most recently the Red Wings.

The native of Plenty, Saskatchewan was selected 15th overall by the Bruins in 1979 and went on to play in three seasons for the club, accumulating 54 points in 228 games. He later on went on to play for the Flyers, Flames, Red Wings and Whalers before finishing his career in 1996-97 with the Coyotes.

“We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club and the international hockey community,” a statement from the KHL read. “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.”

Former NHL star Pavol Demitra is also among those confirmed dead. The 36-year-old forward spent his first year with Yaroslavl in 2010-11 after 16 seasons in the National Hockey League, during which he racked up 768 points in 847 games.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played alongside Demitra during the 2010 Winter Olympics for Slovakia.

"Pavol was the best,” Demitra’s agent Matt Keator (Wellesley, Mass.) said. “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."

Chara and B’s forward Chris Kelly were also teammates with another player that perished in the tragic crash, Karel Rachunek, as the three were members of the Ottawa Senators in 2003-04.

At least four other former NHL players lost their lives, including Lokomotiv defensemen Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins, as well as two assistant coaches with the club, Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev.