CSNNE.com staff and wire reports
Brad McCrimmon, a former Bruins defenseman who played and coached in the National Hockey League from 1979 until this past season, was one of 43 people killed in the crash of a Russian jet carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team on Wednesday.
Also reportedly among the dead are ex-NHL players Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek, Josef Vasicek and Pavol Demitra, as well as New Jersey Devils prospect Alexandner Vasyunov.
The plane was carrying Lokomotiv from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the team was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season for the Kontinental Hockey League. The ministry said the plane had 45 people on board, including 37 passengers and eight crew. McCrimmon, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Red Wings, was named head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in May.
McCrimmon was the Bruins' first-round draft choice in 1979 and played three seasons in Boston before being traded to the Flyers for goalie Pete Peeters on June 9, 1982. He later played with the Flames (with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 1989), Red Wings and Whalers before retiring in 1997. He served as an assistant coach with the Islanders (1997-99), Flames (2000-03), Thrashers (2003-08) and Red Wings.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane crashed into a riverbank on the Volga River immediately after leaving an airport near the western city of Yaroslavl, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow. It was sunny at the time.
The plane that crashed was relatively new, built in 1993, and belonged to a small Moscow-based Yak Service company.
Swarms of police and rescue crews rushed to Tunoshna, a picturesque village with a blue-domed church on the banks of the Volga River. One of the plane's engines could be seen poking out of the river and a flotilla of boats combed the water for bodies. Russian rescue workers struggled to heft the bodies of large, strong athletes in stretchers up the muddy, steep riverbank.
One resident, Irina Pryakhova, saw the plane going down, then heard a loud bang and saw a plume of smoke.
"It was wobbling in flight, it was clear that something was wrong," she said. "I saw them pulling bodies to the shore, some still in their seats with seatbelts on."
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately sent the nation's transport minister to the site, 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of Yaroslavl. President Dmitry Medvedev also planned to tour the crash site.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is a leading force in Russian hockey and came third in the KHL last year. The KHL is an international club league that pits together teams from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. Lokomotiv was a three-time Russian League champion in 1997, 2002-2003. It took bronze last season.
A cup match between hockey teams Salavat Yulaev and Atlant in the central Russian city of Ufa was called off midway after news of the crash was announced by Kontinental Hockey League head Alexander Medvedev. Russian television broadcast images of an empty arena in Ufa as grief-stricken fans abandoned the stadium.
"We will do our best to ensure that hockey in Yaroslavl does not die, and that it continues to live for the people that were on that plane," said Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak.
In recent years, Russia and the other former Soviet republics have had some of the world's worst air traffic safety records. Experts blame the poor safety record on the age of the aircraft, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.
In June, another Russian passenger jet crashed in the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people. The crash of that Tu-134 plane has been blamed on pilot error.