Hockey world shocked by air crash tragedy

Updated: 2011-09-08 10:07


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Hockey world shocked by air crash tragedy

A photograph taken with a mobile phone shows emergency workers searching the wreckage of a plane that crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl Sept 7, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Hockey world shocked by air crash tragedy

Emergency workers search the wreckage of a plane that crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl Sept 7, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

* Lokomotiv squad wiped out in plane crash, several international players perish

MIAMI - The world of ice hockey was in shock and grief after suffering its "darkest day" when a plane carrying the Russian team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed on Wednesday, killing 43 people and leaving just two survivors.

"This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community with so many nationalities involved," International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said in a statement posted on the federation website

"Our thoughts and prayers are with family and friends of the victims."

The plane was taking members of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) team to a game in the Belarussian capital Minsk when it crashed a few kilometers from the airport at Tunoshna outside Yaroslavl, 250 km (150 miles) north of Moscow.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said two people had survived and were in a grave condition.

One of the survivors was Lokomotiv offenseman Alexander Galimov, who hospital doctors said was in a critical condition with burns over 90 percent of his body. The other survivor, a crew member, was also in critical condition.

Lokomotiv's squad includes players and coaches from several countries - among them Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Germany and Canada.

"Despite the substantial air travel of professional hockey teams, our sport has been spared from tragic traffic accidents," Fasel said. "But only until now. This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy."

Czech players Jan Marek, Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek, all members of the national team that won the world championship six times since 1996, had died, the Czech Embassy in Moscow said.

Hockey world shocked by air crash tragedy

Players of Salavat Yulaev Ufa (R) observe a minute of silence during their stopped Continental Hockey League (KHL) opening match against Atlant from Moscow region in Ufa September 7, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the tragedy affected the entire hockey world.

"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, team mates and friends who at one time excelled in our League," Bettman said in a statement.

"Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished."

One of the NHL teams affected was the Los Angeles Kings who said in a statement that two former players with the franchise were on board the plane.

"The Los Angeles Kings organization is deeply saddened with the tragic news of this morning's plane crash in Russia that was carrying the members of the KHL's Lokomotiv organization, including former Kings forward Pavol Demitra, former Kings prospect Jan Marek and many other members of the NHL Family," the statement read.

The tragedy even reached Florida, where the NHL's Panthers mourned the loss of three former players.

"The entire Florida Panthers organization is deeply shocked and saddened after learning about today's plane crash....which included the loss of former Florida Panthers Alexander Karpovtsev, Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those families who have lost loved ones in this tragic and unfortunate accident."

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