Russia Plane Crash LokomotivIt’s a story that’s just too devastating to believe.  It’s now been confirmed that almost the entire Lokomotiv ice hockey team was killed in that horrific Russian plane crash we first told you about this morning.

A Russian plane carrying a some of the world’s top ice hockey players crashed into a riverbank moments after takeoff this morning, killing at least 43 people in one of the most shocking plane crashes ever involving a sports team.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 crashed into Volga River immediately after leaving the airport near Yaroslavl, 150 miles northeast of Moscow.

Yaroslavl’s regional governor, Sergei Vakhrukov, named the two survivors as Russian forward Alexander Galimov and flight crew member Alexander Sizov. Both are being treated in intensive care, with Galimov said to have severe burns covering 80 percent of his body.

(UPDATE: See the touching memorial service held by the team’s opponents)

Thirty-five bodies have been recovered from the crash site so far.

The Lokomotiv team, which was scheduled to play Thursday in the new Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), had several players with ties to the National Hockey League.

Lokomotiv head coach Brad McCrimmon, 52, had previously played in the NHL and was an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.

Among the other dead who played in the NHL were Karel Rachunek, 32; Ruslan Salei, 36; Karlis Skrastins, 37; Pavol Demitra, 36; and Josef Vasicek, 30.

Demitra was a former player for the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks, while Vasicek had previously played for the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. Salei previously played for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, and the Red Wings.

“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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

Lou Lamoriello, president of the New Jersey Devils, paid homage to Alexander Vasyunov, who played for the club last season, as “an outstanding young man and a gifted athlete.”

Rachunek also played for the Devils, Lamoriello said, adding: “Both were members of the Devils family.”

The Russian Hockey Federation expressed “its deepest condolences to the bereaved families and relatives, fans and the entire hockey community” in a statement on its website.

A KHL statement said: “We are only beginning to understand the impact of this tragedy affecting the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club on the friends we’ve lost and the international hockey community.

“First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families of the players, coaches and staff lost in today’s tragedy. We know that there are many in the KHL family who will be grieving with us.”

In Russia, a championship match between Salavat Yulayev and Atlant was stopped after officials learned of the plane crash.

Players and spectators held a moment of silence before leaving the stadium. Many in the audience were weeping.

Alexander Medvedev, president of the Russian national hockey league, addressed the crowd to say that reps from both clubs wanted to call off the match because they had ties to those on board the ill-fated plane.

He said: “I would like to assure you that we’ll do everything we can to make sure that the first-class ice hockey in Yaroslavl will continue and that the Lokomotiv club will remain as one of the strongest clubs in our Kontinental Hockey League.”

This will surely go down as one of the most devastating losses in sports history. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and friends of those who died in Russia today.

More in the video below from CNN.


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