Pavol Demitra among 43 dead in plane crash.

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 Kings forward Pavol Demitra and prospect Jan Marek were reported among the deceased, along with former NHLers Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Brad McCrimmon.

The Kings released the following statement earlier today:

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. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends of those affected by this terrible occurrence.

Demitra, 36, signed a three-year contract with the Kings coming out of the NHL lockout. In his only season in L.A., 2005-06, he scored 25 goals while being limited to 58 games due to various injuries. Following the season, Demitra was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the deal that brought Patrick O’Sullivan to the Kings.

Marek never played a game in North America after being drafted by the New York Rangers in the 2003 Entry Draft. The Kings obtained his rights in the 2007 trade that sent Sean Avery to the Rangers.

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. Said former Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier, echoing most sentiments:

What is going on? Can’t believe what is happening. Numb. Prayers go out to all that are affected by plane crash in Russia.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.