It will be remembered as one of the biggest tragedies in sports history, and it couldn’t have come during a more tragic summer in the hockey world.
An airplane carrying members of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed near Minsk, Belarus today, killing 43. Former Ducks defenseman Ruslan Salei was reported among the deceased, along with former NHLers Pavol Demitra, Karlis Skrastins and Brad McCrimmon.
The Ducks released the following statement earlier today:
The Anaheim Ducks organization is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Ruslan Salei. ‘Rusty’ was a fan favorite and dedicated member of the Orange County community since being drafted by Anaheim in 1996. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife and three children, along with all of the other members of the hockey community affected by this horrible tragedy.
Salei, a native of Minsk, joined Yaroslavl in the off-season after playing 75 games in 2010-11 for the Detroit Red Wings. He was a Mighty Duck until 2006, playing parts of nine seasons in Anaheim and one in Russia during the 2004-05 lockout. He signed with the Florida Panthers prior to the 2006-07 season.
The NHL was already left reeling in the wake of the suicide deaths of Wade Belak and Rick Rypien, and the death of Derek Boogaard from a lethal mix of alcohol and painkillers — all in the last four months. Many players took to Twitter to express their disbelief.
-Ducks forward Bobby Ryan (@b_ryan9): I can’t believe I’m writing another one. Thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by the KHL plane crash. Too many players gone this year
- Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (@camfowler4): “cant even believe theres more awful news in professional hockey. thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends involved with that flight”
- Long Beach native and Ducks prospect Emerson Etem (@tweetem_up): doesn’t matter who you are or where you play. another sad day for the hockey world. #KHL #RIP Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
- Russian native and Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (@bryzgoalie30): My deepest condolences go to families and friends of Lokomotiv. My thoughts and prayers are with wives, childrens and parents of victims
- Orange County native and Nashville Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum (@JonBlum7): Can’t believe the news today lost a former teammate thoughts and prayers go to the victims families
-Orange County native and Florida Panthers draft pick Rocco Grimaldi (@RGrimaldi23): My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones in the plane crash of the KHL team. Be praying for their comfort and peace
-Former Ducks center Andrew Ebbett (@aebbett): I can’t even believe what happened in Russia today. So sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the players and staffs families.