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Remembering those NHL family lost in 2011

by John Kreiser

The end of a year offers the chance to reflect on the previous 12 months.
For all of the tremendous accomplishments that took place this past year, 2011 was also defined by those we lost -- including the deaths of two current NHL players and another who was recently retired, as well as the worst airline disaster in the history of hockey.
Here's a look at some of those in the hockey world who left us during the past year:
Derek Boogaard
May 13, 2011
Age: 28

Boogaard, a seventh-round pick by Minnesota in 2001, played 277 games during six NHL seasons -- five with the Wild before signing with the New York Rangers in the summer of 2010. But he was limited to just 22 games with the Rangers due to a shoulder injury and a concussion.

He was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment, and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office listed the cause of death as an accidental mixture of alcohol and oxycodone toxicity. Oxycodone is categorized as a painkiller.
Rick Rypien
Aug. 15, 2011
Age: 27

Rypien played all 119 games of his NHL career from 2005-11 with the Vancouver Canucks, putting up 16 points and 226 penalty minutes, including one assist and 31 PIM in 2010-11; he missed part of the season after taking a leave of absence due to personal reasons.

Rypien's previous success with the Winnipeg-based Manitoba Moose -- he spent parts of five seasons with the American Hockey League team and became a fan favorite there -- led to his signing of a one-year contract with the Jets in July. But a month later, he was found dead in his home in Crowsnest Pass, Alta., after a long bout with depression.
Wade Belak
Aug. 31, 2011
Age: 35

Belak's death came only months after he officially retired as a player following a 14-year career that saw him play 549 games. He was found dead in his room at a luxury condo/hotel in Toronto. No cause of death has been released.

Belak retired after he was waived by the Nashville Predators, but remained with the organization as a member of its radio broadcast team. Belak also played for Colorado, Calgary, Toronto and Florida.

He was scheduled to be Nashville's sideline television reporter during the 2011-12 season, and was also slated to take part in the "Battle of the Blades," a figure-skating reality show that airs on CBC.
Brad McCrimmon (52), Igor Korolev (41), Alexander Karpovtsev (41), Karlis Skrastins (37), Pavol Demitra (36), Ruslan Salei (36), Karel Rachunek (32), Josef Vasicek (30).
Sept. 7, 2011

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team photo
The worst plane crash in hockey history decimated the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, which was headed to Minsk to play their opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season. Instead, pilot error resulted in the crash of the Yak-42 jet charter, killing all 37 players, coaches and team staff on board. Only one member of the flight crew survived.

Yaroslavl is located about 150 miles northeast of Moscow, but the tragedy was mourned around the hockey world -- hundreds of NHL players were connected to at least one of the deceased.

McCrimmon, a longtime NHL player and highly regarded assistant who had never gotten a chance to coach in the NHL, was on the way to his debut as a head coach after signing with the team in the summer. Korolev and Karpovtsev, both of whom had lengthy NHL careers, were his assistants. Skrastins, Demitra, Salei, Rachunek and Vasicek were former NHL players.

A memorial service for the team drew more than 100,000 people, including Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

EJ McGuire
April 7, 2011
Age: 58

The 2011 NHL Draft began with tributes to McGuire, the longtime executive director of NHL Central Scouting, who died of cancer.

McGuire had served as an assistant coach for Philadelphia, Chicago and Ottawa, as well as a scout, before becoming the head of Central Scouting in 2005. He was the architect of many of the innovations Central Scouting pioneered during the past decade to achieve its mandate of providing NHL clubs with the most comprehensive list of draft-eligible prospects each season.
In his memory, all NHL team personnel at the draft wore pins with the initials "EJ." He was also honored with a video tribute.

Harley Hotchkiss
June 22, 2011
Age: 83


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Hotchkiss, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (2006), had battled prostate cancer before he died.

Hotchkiss was an oil and gas entrepreneur and philanthropist who was part of the group that purchased the Atlanta Flames in 1980 and brought them to Calgary. He served as chairman of the NHL's Board of Governors from 1995-2007, and kept his stake in the Flames until this past season.

Rick Martin
March 13, 2011
Age: 59

Martin, one-third of the Buffalo Sabres' famed "French Connection" line in the 1970s, died of a heart attack while driving near Buffalo.

Martin, taken by the Sabres with the No. 5 pick in the 1971 NHL Draft, scored all but two of his 384 NHL goals with Buffalo. He had back-to-back 52-goal seasons in 1973-74 and '74-75 while playing on the left side with center Gilbert Perreault and right wing Rene Robert on the most famous line in franchise history. He suffered a severe knee injury in November 1980 and retired a year later at age 30.
Gregg Madill
Dec. 5, 2011
Age: 67

Madill, an NHL referee for 12 years, died at his winter home in Kissimmee, Fla.

The most notable incident in Madill's career came at the end of a game between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23, 1979. After the final whistle, players from both teams milled on the ice in a scrum that grew more heated as players argued. A fan then reached over the glass surrounding the rink to hit Boston's Stan Jonathan in the nose -- and the Bruins, still wearing their skates, climbed the glass to fight with the fans.

His NHL officiating career ended a year later, though he refereed for several more years in the Ontario Hockey League.

Johnny Wilson
Dec. 27, 2011
Age: 82

Wilson, a four-time Cup winner with Detroit in the early 1950s and one of the NHL's ironmen in the Original Six era, passed away two days after Christmas. He had been battling lung disease.

Wilson, the brother of former NHL player and coach Larry Wilson and uncle of Toronto coach Ron Wilson, played for Detroit, Chicago, Toronto and the Rangers during a 14-year career that saw him score 162 goals, make two All-Star Games and win Cups with the Wings in 1950, '52, '54 and '55. He was honored by the League in 1960 for playing in 580 consecutive games.

He also coached seven seasons in the NHL with Los Angeles, Detroit, Colorado and Pittsburgh.

Tom Cavanagh
Jan. 6, 2011
Age: 28

Cavanagh, who had a goal and four points in 18 career games with San Jose, was found dead in a parking lot in Providence, R.I. A Health Department spokeswoman said an autopsy by the state Medical Examiner showed that Cavanagh died from "multiple traumatic injuries due to blunt force impact."

Cavanagh played five games with the Sharks' AHL affiliate in Worcester in 2010-11 and was credited with one assist. He was San Jose's sixth-round pick (No. 182) in the 2001 NHL Draft and signed with the Sharks after playing four seasons at Harvard. His 138 points were the most in the history of the Worcester Sharks at the time of his death.

Nick Harbaruk
March 10, 1967
Age: 67

Harbaruk, a forward who spent seven seasons in the NHL and WHA, died of cancer.

He scored 45 goals and 120 points in five NHL seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues from 1969-74, then had a pair of 20-goal seasons with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association. After he retired in 1977, Harbaruk spent seven seasons as coach of Seneca College, posting a 118-25-3 record and winning three Ontario College championships, as well as silver and a bronze medal in the Canadian finals.

Eddy Palchak
Nov. 16, 2011
Age: 71

Palchak, the Canadiens' longtime trainer and equipment manager, died after a long illness.
The Montreal native joined the Canadiens as assistant trainer to Larry Aubut for the 1966-67 season and worked in a variety of jobs until he retired in 2000. He had his name etched on the Stanley Cup 10 times, a record for a support-staff member of an NHL club. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society in 1998.

Palchak began the team's 100th anniversary celebrations on Dec. 4, 2009, by walking to the Canadiens bench and dumping two buckets of pucks onto the ice, just as he had done before practices and pregame skates for years. Fans chanted "Eddy, Eddy" from the seats.

Mandi Schwartz
April 3, 2011
Age: 23

Mandi Schwartz
The older sister of St. Louis Blues' 2010 first-round pick Jaden Schwartz died of acute myeloid leukemia, which short-circuited her own promising hockey career.

Mandi Schwartz played 73 consecutive games for Yale's women's hockey team before learning in December 2008 that she had leukemia and left to receive treatment. She underwent numerous treatments, including a stem-cell transplant using umbilical cord blood in the fall of 2010. However, the cancer returned less than three months later, and she stopped aggressive treatment soon afterward.

Roger Christian
Nov. 9, 2011
Age: 75

Christian, a member of the famed Warroad, Minn., hockey family and a star on the gold medal-winning U.S. hockey team at the 1960 Winter Olympics, died after a heart attack. He and his brother, Billy, were teammates on the 1960 team and partners in forming Christian Brothers, a hockey stick-manufacturing company in their hometown.

In the 1960 gold-medal game at Squaw Valley, Calif., he scored four goals in the Team USA's 9-4 victory against Czechoslovakia. In that Olympics, the United States earned its first victory against the Soviet Union, beating the Soviets 3-2, with Roger assisting on two goals by Billy.

Sven Tumba
Oct. 1, 2011
Age: 80

Tumba was a three-sport star who was honored as the best hockey player in Sweden and later became a golf pioneer in his country and the former Soviet Union. Tumba, who died at a Stockholm hospital of an illness, according to the Swedish Hockey Federation, was inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.

Tumba played hockey for Djurgarden starting in 1950 and won eight Swedish championships and three goal-scoring titles. He represented Sweden at 14 world championships and four Winter Olympics. He was honored as the best forward at the 1957 and 1962 Worlds, and was the top goal-scorer at the 1964 Winter Olympics.

In 1999, he was named as the best hockey player in Swedish history, beating out such players as former NHL MVP Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin, both Olympic champions.

Jaroslav Jirik
July 11, 2011
Age: 71

Jirik, the first player from a communist country to be allowed by authorities to join an NHL club, died in a plane crash in Brno, Czech Republic. Jirik helped Czechoslovakia win the silver medal at the 1968 Olympics and bronze at the 1964 Olympics, attracting interest from NHL teams. He played only three games for the St. Louis Blues in 1969-70, spending most of the season in the minors and opting to return to his home country and his team, RH Brno.

When he retired in 1975, he became a coach in the Czechoslovakian league for many years. He also coached the Swiss national team from 1977-80.
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