LOS ANGELES – On Sunday after the Dallas Stars team plane took off from St. Louis and didn’t gain altitude, players, coaches and staff on board started to wonder if there was something wrong. Then when the Boeing 737 made a hard turn towards St. Louis Downtown Airport several pulses on board started to race.
“When you’ve flown 1.2 million miles (in the NHL), you kind of understand when you’re up there and all of a sudden you’re not gaining altitude and then you bank hard and you’re heading back to the city where you just came from, that something’s not right,” said longtime Stars broadcaster Daryl Reaugh.
The plane’s pilots sensed smoke in the cockpit and quickly decided to make an emergency landing and when the aircraft arrived on the runway there were fire trucks waiting for it. The Stars said the plane suffered an electrical issue and that there was no fire. Still it was enough of a problem to stoke the fears of some of those on board.
“It was a little scary I’ll give you that. I’m not a fearful flyer but I was a little bit scared,” forward Jason Spezza said. “There was no fire on board, I’ve seen different reports, but the plane wasn’t really climbing and we were wondering what was going on and when you fly as much as we do it’s always a little bit in the back of your mind, but it’s fine though.”
Said forward Patrick Eaves, “We went up and kind of heard something and slowed right down. We weren’t climbing so we all had our antennas up then. We saw we were turning around so it was a little weird.”
Stars players had all gotten comfortable shortly beforehand for the long flight to Los Angeles where they were scheduled to play the Kings on Monday. Then when the plane landed they quickly had to prepare for a long delay at the airport. The Stars then waited between three and four hours for a new plane to arrive.
“All the guys had their sweatpants on and their iPads out, watching videos and relaxing already. Next thing you know we’re making a U-turn and landing right away. It put a shock to the system but we’re thankful we’re got out OK and the people running the plane did a heck of a job,” Stars forward Patrick Sharp said.
Though travel snafus can happen in the NHL, Sunday’s issue was a little different for the Stars. It gave them cause for pause and a reason for thanks to those who kept them safe.
“It was unnerving. I think that’s something you don’t want to go through,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “A lot of things cross your mind. It was a tough day travel wise but it was a tough day on the mental side too, you go through – I think everybody on that plane had different thoughts but the thoughts were all the same. I think the crew did a heck of a job getting us back and I think they’re prepared for it. We prepare to do our jobs, they’re prepared to do theirs and the crew, the pilots did a fabulous job.”
Ruff said he had been in aborted takeoffs and aborted landings as well as being on a plane that had an engine blow on a takeoff. One of his more difficult situations came when a charter he was on tried to land and there was a snowplow driver on the runaway.
“The plow driver pulled right off the runway,” Ruff. “He didn’t know the plane was coming I guess.”
With Monday’s game against the Kings a few hours away, Stars players tried to put the situation in the backs of their minds – even though it was impossible to forget.
“We definitely knew something was wrong, so from that sense it was scary,” Eaves said. “We knew something was wrong but didn’t know what it was so … glad it’s over.”
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