Former Carolina Hurricanes
and New York Islanders
center Josef Vasicek
was among the 43 people who were killed when the plane carrying the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team to its KHL season opener in Minsk crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday.
KHL LOKOMOTIV CRASH COVERAGE
An official of the Czech embassy said Vasicek was among those killed when the Yak-42 plane crashed into a river bank in sunny weather near Yaroslavl, about 150 miles northeast of Moscow.
Vasicek, who would have turned 31 on Monday, spent the last three seasons playing for Lokomotiv after seven seasons with Carolina, Nashville and the Islanders, during which he scored 77 goals and had 183 points in 460 regular-season games.
He was born in Havlickuv Brod, Czechoslovakia, but came to North America as a teen and played two seasons with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League after being selected by Carolina in the fourth round (No. 91) of the 1998 Entry Draft. He made the jump to the NHL in 2000-01 after completing his second season in the OHL and was a member of the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup championship team, though he missed much of the season with a knee injury, scored just four goals in 23 regular-season games and went scoreless in eight playoff games.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of today's tragedy in Russia," said Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford. “Josef was an key part of the Hurricanes for six years, helping us achieve some of our greatest successes. More importantly, he was a great teammate on and off the ice, and was respected as a person as well as a player.
coach Peter Laviolette
, who coahced Vasicek on that Cup-winning team in Carolina, told the Philadelphia Inquirer he remembered the forward as, "A quiet guy. Good player. Young ... it’s a devastating thing when something like that happens. We move around so much, in the middle of the night, and when something like that happens, it really kicks you in the teeth a little bit. All you can do is pray for their families.
"It’s a sad day in hockey; a sad day."
The Hurricanes traded Vasicek to Nashville in the summer of 2006, and he had 13 points in 38 games with the Predators before being traded back to Carolina late in the season.
The Preadators issued a statement Wednesday: "The Nashville Predators
' organization shares the pain and suffering being felt throughout the hockey world today following the tragic plane crash in Russia involving the team Lokomotiv Yaraslavl. Included on the team were two former Predators' players -- Karlis Skrastins
and Josef Vasicek
– along with Robert Dietrich
, a 2007 draft choice who played two seasons in Milwaukee and remained on the club’s reserve list.
"On behalf of the organization and our fans, our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends of all the passengers on board. Karlis, Josef and Robert all made contributions to our organization, for which we will forever be grateful. They were all playing the game they love, had so much more to offer and have left us far too soon. We offer our deepest sympathy and condolences to their families at this most difficult time."
He signed with the New York Islanders
in the summer of 2007 and had 16 goals and 35 points for the Isles in 2007-08.
"The entire New York Islanders
organization is saddened by the confirmed reports of the devastating plane crash involving the Kontinental Hockey League club, Lokomotiv," said Islanders GM Garth Snow
. "Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families that lost loved ones on that flight. Three members of the Islanders family were passengers, including former assistant coach Brad McCrimmon
, defenseman Alexander Karpovtsev
and forward Josef Vasicek
. We send our deepest sympathies to everyone who has been affected by this tragic event."
The Isles did not re-sign Vasicek, and he opted to sign with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL, where he played 166 games during the past three seasons. He was coming off his most productive offensive season, with 24 goals and 55 points in 54 games.
Vasicek also played for the Czech Republic in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, going scoreless in five games.