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A special tribute for a special friend

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Brad McCrimmon's family watched a video tribute to the Red Wings' late defenseman and coach before Tuesday's game in Calgary. (Photo by Getty Images)
CALGARY, Alberta – It was a fitting tribute to a wonderful man who respected the game and made everyone around him better.

Prior to the start of the Red Wings’ game Tuesday in Calgary, the Flames held a celebration of sorts that remembered the life of Brad McCrimmon, who was among the 43 souls lost last September when a Russian airliner carrying the Kontinental Hockey League team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff.

McCrimmon had accepted the head coaching job of the KHL team, which was on its way to the season opener when the plane crashed. He had played three NHL seasons in each Calgary and Detroit, and also was an assistant coach for the Flames and Red Wings.

“He loved to be around the guys,” Wings defenseman Brad Stuart said. “I heard a million stories from him, all made me laugh. He loved to hang out, you could tell he missed playing a lot, missed being around the boys.”

McCrimmon, 52, is survived by his wife, Maureen, daughter, Carlin and son, Liam, who live in suburban Detroit, and were at the Scotiabank Saddledome for Tuesday’s “Celebration of Life” tribute that ended with a standing ovation.  

“He was fun to be around. He had a way of keeping it light,” Stuart said. “You never felt like he was coming down on you but you knew when you needed to pick it up. He was a guy you wanted to play for and give everything you had for a guy like that.''

McCrimmon was a Flames’ assistant when a young Jarome Iginla arrived in Calgary needing some direction.

“He was really good with the young guys,” Iginla said. “When he played he was a little bit ahead of his time as far as fitness and importance of being in shape. At least he was pushing us when we were younger, to take that side of it seriously, the work side. But he also had a great balance between having fun and making sure it was still fun coming to the rink.”

As a rookie in 1991, Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom had the pleasure of working closely with McCrimmon, who were partners and roommates on the road back then.

“Behind the bench, whether it's in the heat of the moment he'll say something funny or he'll keep the defensive corps loose all the time,” Lidstrom said. “He's still on pace, knowing who's up all the time, crack a joke here and there.

“It's a great gesture from the Flames to honor him.''

Reflecting on the loss of his former assistant coach Tuesday morning, Wings coach Mike Babcock said, that’s why you love every day to the fullest and make sure you hug your kids every day and make sure you’re on good terms with people because you never know what can happen.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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