The late Russian defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny, who died at age 22 in a tragic boating accident in 1999 before he could play his second NHL season, was born Dec. 25, 1976 in Chelyabinsk. Breaking into the Russian Super League - the predecessor of the Kontinental Hockey League - as an 18-year-old, he was selected by Philadelphia in the sixth round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft (132nd overall) after completing his rookie pro season in Russia.
Tertyshny played parts of four seasons with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the Russian Super League. An outstanding skater and smooth outlet passer, Tertyshny concentrated more on taking care of his own end of the ice than pressing the offensive attack. As a result, his statistics never stood out much and few North Americans knew much about him when he arrived at his first NHL training camp in 1998.
Tertyshny spoke almost no English when he arrived, but he was eager to please, both on and off the ice. Unfailingly respectful to coaches and older teammates alike, he immediately impressed everyone around him with how eager he was to learn the North American game and to fit in on the club. He soon acquired the nickname "Tree"; a play both on the name Dmitri and his tall, lanky frame.
Tertyshny was steadfast in his commitment to earning an NHL job. When the team conducted its preseason fitness testing, he was unaware of what was going on. That morning, wearing no socks and shoes that weren't meant for long-distance running, he followed a group of players aboard a bus. He ran the six-mile course without uttering a complaint. It was only after he finished and removed his shoes that others noticed he had blisters all over his feet, some of which had burst and were bleeding.
The young player's dedication paid off. He won a spot on Roger Neilson's roster and appeared in 62 games during the 1998-99 regular season, chipping in 10 points (two goals, eight assists), a minus-one rating and 30 penalty minutes while showing promise as a puck-moving defenseman. He made his Stanley Cup playoff debut on April 22, 1998, skating 12:52 in the Flyers' 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game One of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
After the season, Tertyshny and Flyers minor league prospects Mikhail Chernov and Francis Belanger attended a summer power skating camp in Kelowna, British Columbia. Taking a break from camp, they decided to go out for some boating late in the afternoon of July 23, 1999.
With Belanger piloting the rental boat, the other passengers were seated aboard the 17-foot vessel. At about 7:25 pm, the boat hit a steep wave and Tertyshny, kneeling on a seat on the bow, was thrown overboard.
His friends watched in horror and anguish as the 22-year-old was run over by the power boat's propeller, which slashed his neck and jugular vein. Bleeding uncontrollably, an unconscious Tertyshny was brought back onboard as the boat returned to shore and an emergency crew arrived three minutes later. The young player was rushed to Kelowna General Hospital, but it was already too late. He bled to death at around 7:30 p.m. while still on the boat.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the entire situation was the fact that Tertyshny and his wife, Polina, were expecting their first child at the time of the accident. She was fourth months pregnant with a boy the couple had already planned to name Alexander.
In the wake of the horrific accident, the Flyers and their AHL farm team, the Phantoms, held a benefit game to raise money for the still-unborn child's future education. For many years, the Traktor organization kept Tertyshny's memory alive by holding an annual 3-game preseason tournament in Chelyabinsk named in his memory.
Polina and Alexander Tertyshny made their permanent home in Philadelphia. Alexander, like his father, became passionate about hockey, playing defense for the Junior Flyers as he developed his skills.