Saturday, during a funeral service at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock remembered McCrimmon as both a hockey player that was among the most physically imposing of his generation and also as a loving family man.
McCrimmon, 52, died when a chartered Yak-42 airplane crashed shortly after takeoff in the Russian town of Yaroslavl. The plane was carrying the Lokomotiv hockey team, which was travelling to Minsk, Belarus for its first game of the Kontinental Hockey League season. Thirty-seven members of the Lokomotiv franchise were among the 44 people to die in the crash. Among the players to die were former Red Wings defenseman Ruslan Salei, former NHL star forward Pavol Demitra and former goaltending prospect Stefan Liv.
As a player, McCrimmon was a hard-hitting, physical defenseman, nicknamed Beast, who was a part of Calgary's Stanley Cup win in 1989, one of the highlights of his career.
He also played for Boston, Philadelphia, Hartford and Phoenix, finishing his 18-year career with 81 goals, 322 assists and 1,416 penalty minutes in 1,222 NHL games.
The Red Wings team attended the funeral after an early-morning practice in Traverse City, the first time the team has been on the ice for training camp. Many other hockey luminaries were on hand, including ex-Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, Toronto general manager Brian Burke, Cliff Fletcher and Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, who played and managed for the Red Wings.
When Detroit captain Nick Lidstrom broke in with the Wings two decades ago, McCrimmon was his defense partner.
Saturday, he remembered a man who helped with his transition to the NHL, both on and off the ice.
"As a coach, an assistant coach, he brought a smile to everyone's faces," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "He wanted things done a certain way. He had a gentler side to him. As players, we saw that."
The crash, one of the worst aviation disasters in sports history, shocked the international hockey community.
The only person to survive, flight crew member Alexander Sizov, was in intensive care at Moscow's Sklifosovsky hospital.
McCrimmon is survived by his wife, Maureen, and children Carlin and Liam.