At least 45 people died on Wednesday afternoon when a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice-hockey team crashed during take-off, emergencies officials said.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, founded in 1949 as the team of the Railways Ministry, is one of Russia's leading hockey teams and came runner up in the nascent Kontinental Hockey League in 2008 and 2009. In 1997 it took the Russian Superleague title and won back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003. It was one of the favorites for this year's Kontinental Hockey League. The side includes players from Germany, Sweden, and Slovakia.
Coached by former Detroit Red Wings assistant Canadian Brad McCrimmon, who took over in May, Lokomotiv has a number of former NHL stars on the books, including former Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks centre Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek, also a centre formerly with the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes, and Belarusian defenseman Ruslan Salei, formerly of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and the Red Wings.
Other big names on the roster include Czech defenseman Karel Ranuchek, Russian winger Alexander Kalyanin and centre Gennady Churilov.
Other prominent team members were Swedish goaltender Stefan Lov, Latvian defenseman Karlis Skrastins and Czech Jan Marek, the KHL's top scorer in the 2008-2009 season with 35 goals for Siberian giants Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He joined Lokomotiv this year after a brief spell with CSKA Moscow.
Marek and Vasicek were members of the Czech national team that won the World Championship in Germany in 2010.
A Lokomotiv official who requested anonymity confirmed to RIA Novosti that all the club’s top players, including Vasicek, Demitra, Marek and the coaching staff were on board the plane.