Tag: Karlis Skrastins

Karlis Skrastins

Must-click link: One of the saddest stories relating to the Lokomotiv tragedy you’ll read

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It’s difficult to find the right words in trying to describe what happened on Wednesday surrounding the events in Russia. The plane crash that resulted in 43 deaths including nearly the entire roster of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is a story too gruesome and too sad for any of us to comprehend in a normal way.

For one sports fan in Texas, his encounter with the tragedy in Russia was a far more direct and saddening one. Hearing and reading about what happened in Russia and being affected by that is one thing, but having to drive the family of one of the players killed to the airport so they could fly to Russia because of it is another thing entirely.

Such is the story that’s told as the author at A Chick’s Perspective tells the tale of having to take Karlis Skrastins’ family to the airport where their lives were about to be changed for the worse.

If you’re not eager to read this, we understand. It’s a very sad and moving story and works as an outsider’s take on a story that doesn’t quite directly involve them. Instead, it throws them into the middle of the entire situation with a gut-wrenching twist.

Update (9/8 – 10 p.m.): As noted in the comments, the author has removed the post out of respect for Skrastins’ family.

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

Slovakia v Germany: Group A - 2011 IIHF World Championship

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.


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.)

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

Plane crash in Russia kills most members of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

APTOPIX Russia Crash

A nightmare of a story out of Russia today as a plane crash near the central Russian city of Yaroslavl involving most of the members of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has seen nearly all the members of the team killed in the accident. It’s being reported by Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov that all but one player were killed in the accident and that the lone survivor, Alexander Galimov, may not survive his injuries including being burned over 80% of his body.

Lokomotiv’s team was made up of former NHL players such as former Canucks and Rangers forward Pavol Demitra, former Rangers and Senators defenseman Karel Rachunek, former Hurricanes forward Josef Vasicek, and Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov. The entire list of those believed to be on board can be found here at the Edmonton Journal.

Former Red Wings assistant coach as well as former Wings and Flyers player Brad McCrimmon was the head coach of the team while former NHLers Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev were assistant coaches. According to the report on NHL.com, the plane wasn’t in the air long before seeing trouble.

According to the reports on the crash, the plane, a Yakovlev Yak-42 passenger jet, went down and caught fire shortly immediately after taking to the air, crashing less than 2 kilometers from the airport.

It was en route to Minsk, Belarus for a Thursday night game against Dynamo Minsk.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the crashed immediately after taking off from an airport near the city on the Volga River, which is approximately 150 miles northeast of Moscow.

In a summer that’s been filled with tragedy of more personal nature with the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak this plane crash comes as an unspeakable tragedy. With so many former NHL players and current Russian players involved in this disaster, the pain felt in the hockey community grows exponentially.

Making the story all the more difficult to handle, Chesnokov reports that the entire Lokomotiv team was on board the plane because they were preparing to head to the first game of the season and wanted to celebrate together appropriately.

The KHL suspended the one game that was being played today in light of the tragedy.

The KHL released this statement on today’s accident.

We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club on the friends we’ve lost and the international hockey community.

First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families of the players, coaches and staff lost in today’s tragedy. We know that there are many in the KHL family who will be grieving with us.

As the investigation of this tragedy progresses we will work closely with investigators, government officials, club executives and the Yaroslavl community. We are working to find an appropriate way to honor this club and begin the healing process from the deep loss so many of us feel today.

We are aware that many of you have questions. This tragedy remains our primary focus. We ask for patience as we find an appropriate way to proceed with the 2011-2012 season. We will continue to communicate our plans as they take shape.

Update (12:28 p.m.): We’re removing Ruslan Salei from the list of those who have perished due to conflicting reports over whether he was on the plane or already in Minsk awaiting the team.

Update (1:37 p.m.): American correspondent for Russian paper Sport Express, Slava Malamud, tweets that the Belarus Hockey Federation and Russian Emergency Ministry confirm that Ruslan Salei has also died.

Malamud also reports that the plane the team was flying on was forbidden from European Union airspace for being too unsafe by the European Air Safety Commission. That story comes from allhockey.ru.

Former Adams Award winner Ted Nolan takes job as Team Latvia head coach

Ted Nolan
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Former Jack Adams Award winner with the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Nolan, is back in the game as a head coach but it’s not in the NHL.

Nolan accepted the job as head man for Team Latvia’s hockey team and he’ll help them gear up for future World Championships and eventually the 2014 Olympics. While it was rumored that Mike Keenan was being sought out for the job last week, it ends up being Nolan that takes the job.

Nolan’s job isn’t going to be easy. Latvia finished 13th at the 2011 IIHF World Championships and avoided being sent down to IIHF Division I after surviving the relegation round. As for what Latvia was looking for in a coach, James Mirtle makes note from the Latvian hockey president what they were looking for.

“We were looking for a neutral, authoritative coach with lots of experience and good hockey knowledge,” Latvian Hockey President Kirovs Lipmans said. “This is exactly what we found with Ted Nolan.”

Nolan will be the first North American to coach Team Latvia since 1939 and for him, the cupboard of NHL talent is sparse. The current Latvian NHLers is a short list and unimpressive to say the least. Defensemen Oskars Bartulis, Karlis Skrastins, and Arturs Kulda as well as forward Raitis Ivanans are the only four in the league and Ivanans missed most of last season with a concussion and is still dealing with the effects from that. These are good reasons why Latvia is currently ranked 12th in the world in hockey and why Nolan is getting the call to try and make something out of nothing.

The brand of hockey Nolan will bring is a tough, defensive one that can have great success on the international stage. Nolan can have a tough demeanor, however, and how that works with a foreign team will be curious to see. Despite Nolan’s successes as a head coach in the NHL, he’s only coached for four seasons (two each with Buffalo and New York) twice leading teams to the playoffs.

His record as a coach was solid going 147-140 with 19 ties and 21 overtime losses as well, but issues with the front offices in both Buffalo and Long Island led to his demise. While Buffalo did well moving on from Nolan to Lindy Ruff, the Islanders haven’t made the playoffs again since Nolan took them there in 2007. Here’s to hoping Nolan can work his magic in Riga, Latvia and get a proud country to be competitive once again.

Still need free agent pickups? Buyer beware as free agent crop is awfully thin now

Alex Kovalev

It’s nearly been a week since free agency began to officially kick off the NHL offseason. After all the signings we’ve had since last Friday, chances are if you haven’t found what you’ve needed for your team you might be out of luck. If you’re wondering who else is still out there, CapGeek has been doing a good job of keeping their lists updated as to who your team might be interested in.

Of course, if your team is in dire need of help virtually anywhere around the ice, they might be in some big trouble. As for who the best of the rest might be, we’ll take a look at each set of positions (forwards, defensemen, goalies) and show you who the next wave of guys to sign might end up being.


Depending on what your needs are, you could still find a little bit of what you’re after. If you need depth scoring and perhaps an aging veteran to spice things up there’s no one better to pick than Alex Kovalev. He’s 38 years-old and coming off a season that saw him split time with Ottawa and Pittsburgh scoring a total of 16 goals adding 18 assists.

source: Getty ImagesIf Kovalev doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the slightly younger Sergei Samsonov. Last season, Samsonov split time with Carolina and Florida scoring a total of 13 goals with 27 assists. Through his whole career he’s been a 40-point player so if you need a little scoring on your third line, go for it. The other more interesting skill forwards to be had include: Cory Stillman, Vinny Prospal, Nikolai Zherdev, and Rob Schremp.

If you’re in need of a speedy winger that can help kill penalties, Fredrik Sjostrom is available as is Steve Bernier. If you’d rather have a physical winger guys like Mike Grier, Brad Winchester, Ethan Moreau, and Eric Boulton. If you’d rather sign an older center who may just have a year or two left in them there’s always Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Brendan Morrison, or John Madden.

Then again, if signing agitators and fighters is what your team needs look no further than Jarkko Ruutu, Eric Godard, or Cam Janssen. With Godard you get a guy that will come off of the bench to defend your goalie in a fight and with Janssen he’ll make sure to book his fights in advance on Twitter.

The selections here aren’t mind-blowing, but if depth is what you need then you’re in luck. There’s also Teemu Selanne who’s technically a free agent but if he doesn’t play for Anaheim, he’s probably not playing in the NHL ever again. Sorry Winnipeg.


source: Getty ImagesIf you’re in need of a top flight defenseman, you’re better off trying to swing a trade elsewhere. If you’re looking for a second or third pairing guy then there’s a few choices that could pan out well and play in certain roles well. If your team needs another power play quarterback type Bryan McCabe is available. Other offensive-like guys are Anton Stralman and Sami Lepisto who were both set free from Columbus.

Defensive defensemen are key as well and should a team need a guy that can body up reasonably well and play sound defensively former Caps defenseman Scott Hannan or Habs blue liner Brent Sopel could work out well. Hannan is a bit more physical while Sopel will also double up and block shots as well. Former Predators defenseman Shane O’Brien could fit the bill for that role as well although his penchant for bad penalties could scare teams off.

Paul Mara could also be a nice complimentary defensive role player, especially if you’re in need of a guy to get in Alex Ovechkin’s business often. Other names to be found here: Anssi Salmela, Freddy Meyer, Karlis Skrastins, Steve Eminger, Jason Strudwick, and Mike Lundin.

If your team is in need of guys that have wild last names, defense is where it’s at with both Jeff Woywitka and Severin Blindenbacher both formerly with Dallas.

source: Getty Images


Here’s where things get dicey, there’s not many guys left if you want someone with NHL experience. Of those available you have your choice between a guy who’s still young but injury prone in Pascal Leclaire, feel-good veteran in Ray Emery, perennial backup favorite Ty Conklin, and elder statesman Chris Osgood.

Failing that a team could try to keep Marty Turco away from being a TV star or could think that Joey MacDonald did enough with Detroit last season to earn a backup job.

As it is, most jobs are spoken for in goal both in starting and backing up and Detroit is the one high profile spot remaining and that could be down to Ty Conklin or another year on pins and needles with Osgood.