Tragedy has struck the hockey world again, this time in Russia and this time on a considerable scale.
A Russian jet carrying a top ice hockey team crashed while taking off Wednesday in western Russia, killing at least 43 people and leaving two critically injured, officials said.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane crashed immediately after leaving an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow. It was carrying 45 people, including 37 passengers and eight crew, and the ministry said all but two people were killed in the crash.
The crash occurred right after takeoff for a flight to Minsk, where Lokomotiv had a Kontinental Hockey League game scheduled against Dynamo Minsk on Thursday.
Witnesses are reporting that the plane was reduced to a pile of charred metal. It is reported that the plane broke off in two and one half fell into water and another one on the ground.
Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov reports that "Lokomotiv official tells Sovetsky Sport 'everyone from the main roster was on the plane plus four players from the youth team.' Lokomotiv official said the entire team was on the plane because they were traveling for the 1st game of the season, a celebration."
Among the NHL alumni that lost their lives in the crash: Pavol Demitra, a standout offensive player for the St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks; Ruslan Salei, former Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche defenseman; Josef Vasicek, former New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes forward; Karel Rachunek, former New Jersey Devils defenseman; Karlis Skrastins, former Dallas Stars defenseman; and Stefan Liv, Detroit Red Wings goalie prospect.
[Related: See photos from the plane crash]
Other victims of the crash included head coach Brad McCrimmon, a former Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman; assistant coach Alexander Karpovtsev, former New York Rangers defenseman; and assistant coach Igor Korolev, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks among others.
One player from Lokomotiv survived the initial crash. Alexander Galimov, a 26-year-old forward who has been with the team since 2004, has been hospitalized with burns to 80 percent of his body. Details are here.
The KHL's opening day is Wednesday, and a Finnish reporter wrote that the game between Salavat Yulaev and Atlas was stopped and then postponed when the news broke. There was a moment of silence in the arena before fans and players left the rink.
Said Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation:
"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 10 nations. This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community."
Passengers: Vitaly Anikeenko; Yuri Bahvalov; Alexander Belyaev; Mikhail Balandin; Alexander Vasyunov; Joseph Vashichek; Alexander E. Vyuhin; Robert Genrikhovich Ditrih; Pavol Demitra; Andrey Zimin; Marat Natfullovich Kalimulin; Alexander G. Karpovtsev; Alexander I. Kalyanin; Andrey Kiryuhin; Nikita Klyukin; Igor Borisovich Korolev; Nikolai Krivonosov; Evgeny Kunnov; Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Kuznetsov; Stephen Daniel Patrick Liv; Jan Marek; Brad Byron MacCrimmon; Sergey I. Ostapchuk; Vladimir Leonidovich Piskunov; Karel Rahunek; Ruslan Salei; Evgeny Sidorov; Karlis Martinovic Skrastinsh; Pavel Snurnitsyn; Daniel E. Sobchenko; Gennady S. Churilov; Maxim A. Shuvalov; Artem Nikolaevich Yarchuk.