Thousands of Latvians congregated in the country's main sports arena in Riga on Friday to pay their respects to defenseman Karlis Skrastins
, who died last week in the Russian plane crash that killed 37 members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team in the KHL.
Skrastins, regarded as one of the greatest players in a country where hockey is by far the most popular sport, was 37. He had signed with Lokomotiv this summer after 12 seasons in the NHL with Nashville, Colorado, Florida and Dallas.
The public tribute was followed by a funeral at a local cemetery.
Skrastins was among 37 players, coaches and team staff members who died when their jet crashed outside Yaroslavl last week en route to their first game of the season in Minsk, Belarus.
Players on the Stars, for whom Skrastins played last season, will wear a No. 37 decal on the back of their helmets to honor him. Also, veteran defenseman Brad Lukowich
, who had assumed Skrastins' No. 37 this season in Dallas, opted to give up the number as another way to honor his former teammate.
"It's just a tough situation to talk about, knowing he was here four or five months ago," Stars captain Brenden Morrow
said earlier this week. "It is just something that we'll wear to honor him and keep him in our memory and his family in our thoughts and prayers."