Plane Crash in Russia Claimes the Lives of 3 Former Detroit Red Wings

Matthew ShepardContributor IIISeptember 7, 2011

DETROIT - FEBRUARY 4:  (L-R) Assistant Coach Brad McCrimmon and Head Coach Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings confer behind the players on the bench during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena on February 4, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 5-4.  (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

A plane crash in Russia claimed the lives of 43 people, including former Red Wings assistant coach Brad McCrimmon, defenseman Ruslan Salei and former goalie prospect Stefan Liv.

The plane crash happened in Central Russia at 4 p.m. Russian time. The majority of the victims belonged to the KHL hockey club Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. The entire starting lineup of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv was on the plane. 

In an interview with the New York Times, team spokesman Vladimir N. Malkov said, "We have no team anymore. All our starting players, and all the service people, they all burned in the crash."

Many former NHL players were playing for Lokomotive. Among those were forwards Alexander Vasyunov, Josef Vasicek, Pavol Demitra, defenseman Karel Rachunek and Karlis Skrastins.

McCrimmon served as Mike Babcock's assistant coach for three years. His experience not only as a coach, but as a player helped develop the team as we know it today. He left Detroit this year to become head coach of Lokomotives. Sadly, McCrimmon never coached a game as head coach.  

Salei joined the Red wings last season. He was on the Anaheim Ducks with Babcock. This led to him signing to Detroit. Babcock knew how much of a team player Salei was. Salei knew how to use his body and was not afraid to take a hit. His physical play was well-noticed. That is why so many teams showed interest in him.

During the 2009-10 season, he suffered a back injury which forced him to miss 56 games. During that time he worked hard to recover, not only for his team but for his country. He was able to represent his home country Belarus in the 2010 Olympic Games.

Babcock told the Detroit Free Press, "It's a tough day around here. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the family."

Liv is not as well known in Detroit, but he was once a highly touted goalie prospect. He only played one season in Detroit (2006-07), but his talents were recognized. He played in the AHL on the Grand Rapids Griffins. Liv played  34 games and had a save percentage of 89.5 percent.

Before playing for Detroit he won many awards, including the Honken Trophy (Swedish Goaltender of the Year) in 2002. 

All over the NHL, players are tweeting and responded to the lose of their former friends and teammates. 

Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin tweets, "I'm in shock!!!!! R.I.P."

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore tweets, "Another devastating day in hockey world. Tragic news out of KHL. Thoughts and prayers to everyone involved. Don't know what else to say."

Even NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement.

"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, teammates and friends."

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov could not believe the news. He told that he knew 80 percent of the team. Nabokov played in the KHL one season ago before returning to the NHL. He was singed by Detroit, but was lost in waivers to the New York Islanders.