WINNIPEG - Nik Antropov is busy getting used to the new surroundings of Winnipeg and a fresh direction in his hockey career -- but for the most part his mind is elsewhere.
Antropov was friends with nine players that died in the horrific plane crash Wednesday that wiped out the Lokomotiv team of the KHL. He considered former Winnipeg Jets forward Igor Korolev, who was killed in the crash, to be "like a brother."
"Igor was my good friend and this is very sad for me. I knew Igor for 11 years since I first came to North America and he took me under his wing," said Antropov, who is entering his 12th NHL season. "He did a lot of good things for me."
Antropov has scored 172 goals and 240 assists in 679 career NHL games -- but when he arrived in North America as a lanky kid out of Khazakstan, he had lots of hockey ability but limited life skills.
"I couldn’t speak English and didn’t know where to go for something to eat. Igor showed me everything. I called his wife and didn’t know what to say. I told her I hoped he wasn’t one of them but then we found out it was," Antropov said.
"It’s a tough loss for us. He’s the godfather of my son."
Hockey is a brief refuge for Antropov right now.
"Anytime you lose one of your best friends or your family, it’s hard to take but you have to move forward from it. I will always remember what he did for me," said Antropov.
"You could call him at any time and he was there for you. I think about this all the time. You come to the rink and hang out with the guys and no one talks about it, but then I get in the car to leave and it’s there. It’s hard right now."