Plane carrying KHL team crashes; former Ottawa Senators Rachunek, Demitra killed

Russian news agencies are reporting the plane that crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl on Wednesday, killing 36 of 37 passengers, was carrying KHL professional hockey team Lokomotiv. The team’s roster includes several former NHL players, including ex-Ottawa Senators Pavol Demitra and Karel Rachunek.

Plane carrying KHL team crashes; former Ottawa Senators Rachunek, Demitra killed
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)


Russian news agencies are reporting the plane that crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl on Wednesday, killing at least 43 passengers, was carrying KHL professional hockey team Lokomotiv.

The team’s roster includes several former NHL players, including ex-Ottawa Senators Pavol Demitra and Karel Rachunek. Demitra’s agent has confirmed he is among the dead, while Czech officials in Moscow told the Associated Press Rachunek was also killed.

The Yakolev Yak-42 passenger plane was reportedly carrying the team to its season-opening game against Minsk in Belarus.

**UPDATE**: KHL statement on crash

Demitra and Rachunek were both draft longshots, selected by the Senators in the late rounds of the NHL draft. Demitra was chosen 227th overall by Ottawa in the 1993 entry draft, while Rachunek was a 229th choice in 1997.

Demitra, 36, loaded with offensive talent, fought for playing time with the Senators — former Senators general manager Pierre Gauthier refused to offer him a one-way guaranteed NHL contract — ultimately leading to a trade to the St.Louis Blues for Christer Olsson late in the 1996-97 season.

His career blossomed after that. Three times he topped the 35-goal mark with St. Louis. During his NHL career, which also included time with the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks, he scored 304 goals and 464 assists in 847 regular season games. He also won the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player in 1999-2000. Demitra added another 23 goals and 36 assists in 94 playoff games.

Rachunek, 32, played for the Senators from 1999-2004, and was the long-time defensive playing partner for Wade Redden.

He was dealt to the New York Rangers, along with Alexandre Giroux, in a trade for Greg de Vries late in the 2003-04 season. Rachunek also played for the New Jersey Devils, completing his NHL career with 22 goals and 118 assists in 371 games.

The Locomotiv team is coached by Canadian Brad McCrimmon, who was an assistant in Detroit last season with current Senators bench boss Paul MacLean.

Here’s more from Postmedia News, quoting Russian aviation officials:

MOSCOW – The start of Russia’s ice hockey league has been delayed in the wake of Wednesday’s plane crash which killed at least 44 people including members of the Lokomotiv team travelling to their first match of the season.

The tragedy happened when a Russian jet crashed on takeoff at an airport outside the central Russian city of Yaroslavl.

A police source told Interfax that the stricken plane suddenly started listing to the left and crashed about 500 metres (yards) away from the Tunoshna airport.

“According to the latest data, there were 45 people on board — 37 passengers and eight crew. Forty-four people died in the crash and one person survived,” the official told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Initially the Continental Hockey League (KHL) elected to go ahead with the scheduled first match between reigning champions Ufa and last season’s runners-up Mytishchi.

But after details of the full extent of the accident were confirmed the match was stopped with 5 min 16sec remaining before the first intermission.

“In such a situation the players of both teams considered the playing after their friends and collegues died to be absolutely impossible,” KHL president Alexander Medvedev announced.

The decision about the new start of KHL season will be announced later.

The local capacity 10,000 crowd at Ufa Arena held a minute’s silence in the memory of the players who died in the crash.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were scheduled to start their new KHL season on Thursday with a match at Minsk against local side Dynamo.

The club, which was founded in 1959, won the Russian title in 1997, 2002 and 2003, clinching the league’s silver medal in 2008 and 2009.

Yaroslavl also won bronze medals of the Russian league in 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2011.

Czech players Josef Vasicek, Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek were on Yaroslavl’s roster this season along with Stefan Liv of Sweden and Slovak Pavol Demitra.

Of 27 names on the roster, men played for NHL teams while most were NHL prospects.

Demitra, 37, played for the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks and several U.S. NHL teams including the Los Angeles Kings.

Robert Dietrich, Marek and Liv were both NHL prospects and played in the American Hockey League. It would have been Marek’s first year with the Russian team.

Karel Ruchunek, was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 1997 and played about half a dozen games with the team that same year.

Vitaly Anikeyenko, 24, who was selected by the Ottawa Senators as the third round pick overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft, was also on the Russian team’s roster. He played for the Russian team since 2005.

Ruslan Salei, in the NHL since the 1997-98 season, played last year with the Detroit Red Wings. He previously played for the Colorado Avalanche, the Florida Panthers, and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Canadian manager Brad McCrimmon was coaching Lokomotiv this season. Russia Today, an English language broadcasting network, confirmed that McCrimmon died.

One survivor, Alexander Galimov, is hospitalized with burns on 80 per cent of his body, the news agency reported.

Video report from Russia Today:

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