Pavol Demitra (Getty Images Sport)
Igor Korolev. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - The St. Louis Blues are in mourning after a jet crash in Russia claimed the lives of former teammates and dozens of other hockey players Wednesday morning.
The private jet, carrying 27 players of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, along with 2 coaches and 7 club officials, slammed into a riverbank moments after takeoff, killing at least 43 people in one of the worst plane crashes ever involving a sports team. Two other people on board were critically injured.
Former Blues players Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev were among those killed.
Korolev played two years as a center with the Blues in the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. He finished his NHL career with nearly 800 regular season games played, 119 goals and 227 assists. Korolev celebrated his 41st birthday on Tuesday, September 6.
Demitra played eight seasons for the Blues between 1996 and 2004. He made it to the NHL All-Star Game three times.
Upon learning of the news, current Blues players expressed shock and disbelief, and admitted their own concerns about flying. Former Blues Keith Tkachuk said he was "beyond devastated."
"Pav was like a brother to me and I cannot believe that he is no longer with us," Tkachuck said in a statement. "This is a terrible day for the hockey fraternity. My family's thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time."
Tkachuk also grieved over the death of another teammate, Brad McCrimmon:
"Brad was my teammate in Phoenix and later coached me in Atlanta and was truly a wonderful man who will be greatly missed."
NHL Hall of Famer and Blues legend Bernie Federko said he got to know Demitra when he first joined the club. He said Demitra was a great player and became one of the league's best with the franchise.
"Pavol was a star in St. Louis. He was a very gentlemanly player, winning the Lady Byng (Trophy)," Federko said. "But you don't win the Lady Byng just by being a gentlemanly player. You got to be a really good player, as well as a gentlemanly player, and that speaks for itself."
The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the NHL player "adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability," according to the league. Demitra won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for the 1999-2000 season.
St. Louis Blues President John Davidson issued this statement regarding the plane crash:
"On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place today in Russia involving the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club. The entire hockey community has been affected by this news and our most heart-felt condolences go out to the families of those who perished.
"The St. Louis Blues have lost two members of our family, Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families as well. Pavol and Igor were both incredibly passionate and dedicated players and their influence in St. Louis was not only felt on the ice, but throughout the community."
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals announced Wednesday they would have a moment of silence ahead of that night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.