I really didn't want to write about this at first. The disaster in Russia that eliminated an entire team (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl) in the Kontinental Hockey League is the worst tragedy in hockey history; in an off season that already was full of dismal news.
For those unfamiliar with the KHL, the Russian based Association (with teams in Belarus, Latvia, Slovakia & Kazakhstan) is considered the highest quality European League. It has multiple former National Hockey League Players, and elite Europeans of NHL calibre. I am not a regular follower of the KHL, and when first learned of the crash was shocked to learn how many names I recognized.
Among those who perished were Slovakia star, Pavol Demitra, who was a three time All Star and one time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy. As recent as last year's Olympic Tournament, Demitra was on the center stage as he was the leading scorer in the most star studded event in International Hockey.
Karol Rachunek also died in the tragedy. He was a former seven year pro with the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. He was a solid defenceman who by all account simply preferred to play in Europe over North America.
One of the best players ever to come from Belarus also died. Ruslan Salei had a long 900 game plus career in the NHL, the bulk of which was for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Karlis Skrastins was an NHL ironman who holds the record for the most consecutive games played by a defenceman. Skarstins was a Latvian who excelled in International play.
Josef Vasicek won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. The Czech Centre also was part of the team that won the World Championships the year previous.
Their head coach was Brad McCrimmon. Hockey fan should be familiar with the rugged defenceman whose career spanned over 1,200 games including a Stanley Cup win in Calgary. McCrimmon was hopeful that this stint as a head coach in Russia would help him achieve his goal of head coaching in the National Hockey League. (On a personal note, I just dig out his rookie card).
His Assistants should also be well known to NHL fans. Igor Koralev was a decent forward who had his best years with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Alexander Karpovtsev was a defencemen who historically was among the first Russians to have his named etched on the Stanley Cup, winning it as a member of the Rangers.
Hopefully this disaster will change how travel is done within the borders of Russia.....something safe has to come out of this mess. With that, lets get the season started....this off season has been bad enough.