Plane Crash in Russia Kills Former NHL Players

The private jet was carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club.

Hockey fans in Southern California were stunned to learn about a plane crash in Russia Wednesday that killed at least 43 people, including nearly an entire hockey team whose roster included several former NHL players.

A private jet carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club crashed into a riverbank shortly after taking off from an airport in Yaroslavl, Russia, 150 miles northeast of Moscow.  The team was on its way to its opening game of the season.

Russian television showed a flaming fragment of the plane in the river as divers worked feverishly to recover bodies.

Among the victims were former Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ruslan Salei and former LA Kings forward Pavol Demitra.

"When you're a teammate, you're friends for life. Pavol was a great teammate, a great player," said Demitra's former teammate and current LA Kings President Luc Robitaille.

"The Anaheim Ducks organization is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Ruslan Salei," the Ducks organization said in a statement.  "Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife and three children."

At Pickwick Gardens in Burbank, where the Southern California Amateur Hockey league practiced Wednesday night, the loss of these local heroes is hitting them hard.

"It's such a small community. You feel like you almost know these people. It's a very sad situation," said hockey fan Victor Perez.

Officials said the only two people who survived the crash were Russian player Alexander Galimov along with a member of the flight crew.

"Their state of health is very grave. But there is still some hope," said Alexander Degyatryov, chief doctor at Yaroslavl's Solovyov Hospital.

"Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world, including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates and friends,'' NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

The cause of Wednesday's crash was not immediately apparent, but Russian news agencies cited unnamed local officials as saying it may have been due to technical problems. The plane was built in 1993 and belonged to a small Moscow-based company.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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