NHL stars react to Russian plane crash
National Hockey League stars reacted with shock and grief Wednesday to the news that the Russian KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which included several former NHL players, had been wiped out in a plane crash in Russia.
"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport," International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said. "This is not only a Russian tragedy. This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community."
Alex Ovechkin, a Russian superstar for the NHL Washington Capitals who once played for Lokomotiv's Kontinental Hockey League rival Moscow Dynamo, posted on his Twitter account "I'm in shock!!!! R.I.P."
"A whole national tragedy," Ovechkin told the Washington Post. "It's kind of a scary moment."
Lokomotiv included a number of former NHL players and national team talents who skated beside NHL players at Olympic and world championships as well as in quest of the NHL's Stanley Cup.
"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 who at one time excelled in our league," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Lokomotiv was flying to Belarus to face a Minsk club in the team's season opener. The team included Slovakian ex-NHL star Pavol Demitra and was coached by Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian who played 18 seasons as an NHL defenseman.
"I knew half the team. I didn't believe it at first ... then I felt sick," New York Ranger and former Lokomotiv hometown hero Artem Anisimov told Newsday.
Demitra, 36, played with five NHL clubs, scoring 304 goals in 847 games. He signed with Lokomotiv last year after leading Slovakian scorers at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, his third Olympic appearance.
"People were drawn to Demo. He was a great friend and great teammate," Matt Keator, Demitra's agent, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "This is just awful. He was such a popular guy with everyone he has ever played with."
"Hockey lost a great legend in Demitra," said Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues.
NHL players, who were already coping with the deaths of three notable physical enforcers since May, again expressed sorrow and sadness in Twitter postings.
"Another terrible tragedy and loss to the hockey world... makes my body shake thinking bout it," said Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders.
"I can't believe I'm writing another one," tweeted Anaheim's Bobby Ryan. "Too many players gone this year."
"Horrible tragedy!!! Thoughts with families. Enough hockey tragedy this summer," said Mathieu Darche of the Montreal Canadiens.