It’s been a summer of NHL tragedies with the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, but a tragedy Wednesday only added to the global heartache around the sport.
According to multiple reports, a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League crashed, killing the vast majority of those aboard. A Lokomotiv official told Sovietsky Sport that everyone from the roster plus four youth team players were on the plane.
Details are sketchy as to how many survivors there are – ranging from just one crew member to three, including one player. Former Red Wings and Flyers defenseman Brad McCrimmon was the head coach and is believed to be on the plane.
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin knew Alexander Galimov from their time on the Russian world junior team in 2005. There were conflicting reports about Galimov, with a TV station saying he died after the crash and the hospital refuting it. More details will be provided when confirmed.
“It’s kind of a scary moment,” a clearly shaken Ovechkin said. “It’s a whole national tragedy.”
Other former NHL players on Lokomotiv include Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek, Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins. Lokomotiv is the team that owned the rights to ex-Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, who reportedly showed interest in the KHL before being traded to the Avalanche.
Caps prospect Stan Galiev said he knew three players on Lokomotiv: Yuri Urychev, Daniil Sobchenko and Sergei Ostapchuk.
“I am shocked. It’s very sad,” he said. “I had a couple good friends there from world junior team – I played with them.”
Goalie Tomas Vokoun politely declined comment through a team spokesman when approached, saying only “What can I say?” His best friend, who he wasn’t comfortable mentioning, was on board the plane, so Vokoun asked for a couple days before addressing the crash.
Sport-Express reporter Slava Malamud, who has been reporting the story, spoke with the Washington Times to provide some details about the mode of travel that caused the crash. The Russian government is treating this as a criminal investigation, though Malamud said that was “standard procedure.”
The plane, a YAK-42, is a 30-year old model that Malamud termed “obsolete.” Government officials ordered this model – among others – be replaced.
“This is a cheaper-type plane,” Malamud said. “NATO’s nickname for it is ‘the Clobber.’ ”
It is a standard plane for mid-range flights among KHL teams, though it’s uncertain how many teams use it.