Another tragedy has hit the National Hockey League community – including the Winnipeg Jets – especially hard.
As news spread of the plane crash in Russia that killed 43, including members of Kontinental Hockey League team Lokomotiv and their Canadian coach and former Brandon Wheat King Brad McCrimmon, Jets players finishing up an informal workout at MTS Iceplex were left in shock and disbelief.
Also killed in the crash was Lokomotiv assistant coach Igor Korolev, who played for the Jets between 1994 and 1996. He had just retired to join the team's staff.
True North Sports & Entertainment and the Winnipeg Jets issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"We join together with the entire hockey community to mourn the tragedy that occurred earlier today. We would like to express our sincerest sympathies to the friends and family of former Winnipeg Jet Igor Korolev and former Brandon Wheat King Brad McCrimmon, as well as the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization."
A handful of the Jets players knew McCrimmon from his days as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Thrashers from 2003 to 08 as well as the Detroit Red Wings from 2009 to 2011.
"He was great with me and he was great with everyone that came around him," said defenceman Derek Meech. "It’s hard to believe right now.
"He was unbelievable at taking time to spend time with everybody. He definitely gave me a lot of insight, a lot of tips and helped with my confidence. He was a player's coach, always telling stories... it’s just a sad time. There’s not much to say."
The crash was one of the worst ever involving a sports team and also took the lives of several European stars and former NHLers, including Pavol Demitra, Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek, Karlis Skrastins and Jan Marek.
"Brad was one of my first coaches when I came into the league and he was kind of a mentor for the younger guys. It's tough news to swallow for sure when you hear about one of your first coaches being in something like this," the Jets Bryan Little said.
"He was serious at time but he could lighten the mood pretty easily. He was just a fun guy to be around. The support he had for me my first couple of years, whenever I got frustrated he was a guy who came and talked to me to keep me level-headed and keep me focused. He could tell you a story to make you feel better. And he was really easy to talk to as a coach."