Brad McCrimmon, former Flyers defenseman, was killed when a plane carrying the KHL team he coached crashed shortly after takeoff in western Russia on Wednesday. McCrimmon was 52 years old.
McCrimmon was part of the mid-1980's Flyers teams that twice went to Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the Edmonton Oilers in 1985 and 1987.
McCrimmon had a surly demeanor on the ice which earned him the nickname "The Beast" and he and his defensive partner, Hall of Famer Mark Howe, were arguably the greatest defensive pair in Flyers history.
McCrimmon played with the Flyers for five seasons. The most impressive would probably be the 1985-86 season. With the team reeling from the death of goaltender and 1985 Vezina Trophy winner, Pelle Lindbergh, McCrimmon and Howe anchored a stellar defense in front of Lindbergh's replacement Bob Froese.
McCrimmon was a plus 83 and Howe a plus 85 as the Flyers won the Patrick Division. McCrimmon was a stalwart for the young team that was dealing with the death of a teammate and friend and many players leaned on McCrimmon for strength during that awful time.
McCrimmon also was responsible for one of the most memorable goals in Flyers history. In game three of the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals, trailing 2-0 in the series and 3-0 in the game, the Flyers began a comeback late in the second period, chipping away at the Oiler leader.
Four minutes into the third down 3-2 Scott Mellanby tied the game. The Spectrum was near delirium and just 17 seconds after tying the game, McCrimmon made a great play to spring the puck forward into the Oilers zone. Mellanby skated along the right wing boards and threw a pass across the slot as McCrimmon charged the net. He deflected the puck into the air, off of Oiler goalie Grant Fuhr and into the net.
The Flyers had completed what one sports writer called, "The greatest comeback from the dead" he had ever witnessed. McCrimmon's goal was later overshadowed by JJ Daigneault's game six winner, but for those who saw it McCrimmon's will always be just as memorable.
A great hockey mind, McCrimmon went into coaching when his playing days were over. He served as an assistant coach for the New York Islanders, the Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and the Detroit Redwings. This was his first season coaching in the KHL.
43 people were killed in the accident. Losing an entire sports team due to an airplane crash is almost unthinkable and luckily it is extremely rare. The most famous being the 1958 Munich Air Disaster that killed eight members of Manchester United.
Sadly, McCrimmon becomes yet another member of those mid-80's Flyers teams to die too soon. There was of course Pelle Lindbergh killed in a car crash in 1985 at the age of 26. Defenseman Miroslav Dvorak, who played alongside McCrimmon from 1982-85 died in 2008 at the age of 56 from throat cancer. And in 2009 former Flyers star center and fan favorite, Peter Zezel died due to complications from a rare blood disease called hemolytic anemia at the age of 44.
Sirius XM radio host Ron Bennington dedicated September 7th's Ron and Fez Show to The Beast. It'll be the first of many tributes.