Looking back at the legacies of the victims of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy

September 7, 2011 will go down as one of the darkest days in hockey history, as at least 43 people died in a horrific plane crash on Wednesday. As you probably know by know, the KHL team Lokomotiv suffered most of the losses. While PHT took a look at how the NHL reacted to the stunning news and how people hope to eventually move on from the tragedy, it seems like a good time to look back on the lives of some of the victims.

(For a full list of the players and team members who were believed to be on board, click here.)

Brad McCrimmon (52 years old): McCrimmon was a former assistant coach with the Red Wings who hoped to advance his coaching career by becoming Lokomotiv’s bench boss in May. He had a distinguished NHL career in which he finished with a +444 rating as a defenseman. (You can read more about his career and life in this story at CSNPhilly.com.) Craig Custance provided these heartfelt words about McCrimmon.

McCrimmon connected with everyone — children, teammates, fans, media. He was an incredible father to his two children and was loved by those he played with — and those who played for him. He was ready to take on his latest challenge in life, and it was easy to see it resulting in a future offer for an NHL job. Mostly because he didn’t just talk of things he learned on the farm — trust, respect, discipline, accountability and sacrifice. He lived it. Just not nearly long enough.

Pavol Demitra (36): Demitra was a three-time All-Star during an NHL career that spanned 16 seasons. Injuries were often a problem for the very skilled Slovakian, but he showed how much of an impact he could make in the 2010 Olympics, scoring 10 points in just seven games to become the tournament’s leading scorer. Michael Russo caught up with Demitra’s agent, who provided this heartbreaking quote.

I just got off the phone with agent Matt Keator, who was with Demitra in Riga, Latvia, three weeks ago and confirmed to me that Demitra sadly was killed: “I just want everybody to know what kind of infectious energy he has, what a wonderful person he was. People were drawn to Demo.”

source: APRuslan Salei (36): Just as recently as last season, Salei was an NHL defenseman with the Detroit Red Wings. The rugged defensemen played 917 regular season games in his NHL career, but many will remember him for his off-beat sense of humor, including his strange craving for a drink that was “half-Pepsi, half-beer.”

Karlis Skrastins (37): The stay-at-home defenseman earned an “Ironman” streak by playing 487 consecutive games, but former PHT editor Brandon Worley remembers him as a warm and inviting person off the ice.

I had the pleasure of meeting Karlis Skrastins last fall. Like many NHL players he was more than willing to stop and chat. I walked away amazed at how humble he was and how quick to smile he was while chatting with me, a genuinely nice guy whose enthusiasm for hockey was infectious. His teammates felt the same way and everyone will remember Karlis as a man who made an impact on their lives just from having known him, how his quiet intensity drove him every night on the ice and his work ethic drove him off it.

Josef Vasicek (30): The Czech-born forward played for the New York Islanders, Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes before moving on to the KHL. His best memories from his seven NHL seasons probably came during the 2006 playoffs when he won a Stanley Cup with Carolina.

Karel Rachunek (32): The former Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils defenseman has been affiliated with Lokomotiv even before the team became a member of the KHL. He was the team’s captain.

Alexander Karpovtsev (41) and Igor Korolev (41): Two former Chicago Blackhawks who served as assistant coaches were also victims of the crash.

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Since we couldn’t cover every player and coach who was a victim of this awful accident, here’s a video tribute to the team that hopefully does everyone justice. (H/T to The Royal Half.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

(Various sources were helpful in putting together this post, including these bios from The Associated Press.)

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”