Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Here we go again

Another week, another damn hockey tragedy: Former NHLers among victims of Russian plane crash.
A plane crash near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia has claimed the lives of at least 43 people, according to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry. The majority of victims were members of the Kontinental Hockey League club, Lokomotiv...
...Coach Brad McCrimmon, forward Pavol Demitra, defenseman Ruslan Salei, forward Josef Vasicek, defenseman Karel Rachunek, forward Jan Marek, forward Alexander Vasyunov, defenseman Karlis Skrastins and goalie Stefan Liv are among the confirmed fatalities.
Demitra is a former King and Salei a former Duck.  Salei married a local Orange Country girl, who stayed home in OC with their three children while Salei played in Russia.   The youngest of the kids is only six months old.

Canadian-born Brad McCrimmon was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers team that got me hooked on hockey during the 1987 Stanley Cup playoffs.  My roommate and I kept coming across games while we channel surfed after work each night and would keep watching longer and longer until the finals, when we were riveted to the TV, rooting for the underdog Flyers, who eventually fell to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers in what was an amazingly exciting series.  The following October we bought tickets to the Kings season opener and I've been a fan ever since.  The Kings had been eliminated from the playoffs by the time we were actively watching, so all we really knew about them going in was that they had three guys (Luc Robitaille, Steve Duchesne and Jimmy Carson) who had just come off really promising rookie seasons and that they got zero respect around town.  A year later Wayne Gretzky was in a Kings uniform and everything changed.  McCrimmon eventually got his Stanley Cup as a member of the Calgary Flames.

One of McCrimmon's teammates on the Flyers was Kings Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall, who was left stunned by the loss.  Reports are that McCrimmon left the Red Wings, where he was an assistant coach the past few seasons, because he wanted a head coaching gig and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl offered him one.  I'm kind of surprised he had to go that far for the chance - he was one of those players who was so smart about the game and so well-respected that you just assumed he'd end up running an NHL team some day.

So yet again, the hockey world is in mourning and extending our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of the dead.  Come on, hockey gods, cut us a break.

Updated (6:37pm): Just to rub salt in the wound, the mother of one of the players killed in the crash died of a heart attack upon receiving news of her son's death.   No words...

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