International hockey suffered a devastating loss Wednesday when all but one member of a major Russian hockey team died during the crash of a jet after takeoff near the city of Yaroslavl.
The plane was carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club when it slammed into a riverbank on the Volga River, 150 miles northeast of Moscow. All but two of the 45 people onboard died.
Those in the plane included former NHL All-Star Pavol Demitra and Lokomotiv coach Brad McCrimmon, a longtime NHL assistant and defenseman.
Three members of the 2005 and 2010 World Championship Czech team, Jan Marek, Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek, were also among those in the crash, according to Czech hockey officials.
The Anaheim Ducks say that their former defenseman, Ruslan Salei, was also aboard the jetliner.
Officials say Russian player Alexander Galimov and a crew member were critically injured during the crash that occurred on a sunny day.
Reaction came in from both sides of the Atlantic.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement on behalf of his league: "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 who at one time excelled in our League. Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished."
STORY: More on Russian jet crash
The team was headed to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to 0pen its Kontinental Hockey League season against Dinamo Minsk.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl finished third in the KHL last year. McCrimmon, 52, took over in May and was most recently an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.
McCrimmon played 18 years as an NHL defenseman for six clubs and mentored Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom during his first year over from Sweden in 1991.
"I've known him for a long time," Lidstrom said. "He was my partner my first year over here, he was my roommate, too, so I got to know him real well. He helped me out a lot my first year here in the league."
McCrimmon spent three seasons with the old Hartford Whalers in the 1990s before the team moved to North Carolina.
"Brad McCrimmon was a member of our team while we were still in Hartford, and was well liked by all who came in contact with him," said Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford. "His presence in the hockey community will be greatly missed."
The international community was also shaken.
"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from 10 nations," said Rene Fasel, president of the international Ice Hockey Federation. "This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community."
KHL president Alexander Medvedev confirmed the tragedy 15 minutes into the league-opening game in Ufa between Salavat Yulaev and Atlanta Moscow Region.
"We will do all that we can to ensure that top level hockey continues in Yaroslavl and that Lokomotiv remains one of the strongest clubs in the Kontinental Hockey League," he said via the KHL website.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry says two people survived the crash, which occurred about 150 miles northeast of Moscow on a sunny day. The plane hit a riverbank on the Volga River.
"We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club and the international hockey community," KHL said in a statement.
"First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families and friends of the players, coaches and staff lost in today's tragedy. As the investigation of this tragedy progresses we will work closely with investigators, government officials, club executives and the Yaroslavl community."
New Jersey Devils executive Lou Lamoriello issued this statement after learning that two of his former players were crash victims:
" I had the pleasure of knowing several members of the team, plus the entire coaching staff. In particular, Alexander Vasyunov, who played for us last season, was an outstanding young man and a gifted athlete. Captain Karel Rachunek skated for us in 2007-08. Both were members of the Devils family."
--Contributing: Bob Kimball and Mike Brehm