Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Deaths devastating blow for Canucks GM

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VANCOUVER -- It never seems to end for Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, he being hit particularly hard with the news of the Russian plane crash Wednesday morning.

Not only did he lose former client and good friend Pavol Demitra in the tragedy, another close friend and former teammate, Brad McCrimmon, was coaching the Lokomotiv team.

McCrimmon and Gillis were born within four months of each other and while they were taken in different drafts, both ended up in Boston together playing as young kids who didn't see much ice time under coach Harry Sinden, which was enough to bond any two people together for life.

"What is there to say, really," said Gillis before sharing a few fond memories of his two friends.

"Really, with Rick (Rypien's death) this summer setting us all back the way it has, what more is there to say."

Since Gillis has become GM in Vancouver, he's had the death of Luc Bourdon by motorcycle accident, Taylor Pyatt's fianceé Carly Bragnalo having been killed in Jamaica in a car accident, Rypien's presumed suicide and now two close friends going down in the same plane crash. And we're probably forgetting someone too.

Gillis had not yet spoken to Demitra's wife, Maja, but had been in communication with the financial people in New York with whom he set up the family a year ago, and they reported that she was in a dreadful state as one might well expect.

Demitra's son, Lucas, is a promising skier who loved the North Shore mountains when Demitra played here in Vancouver and younger daughter Zara is also left behind.

And the family has already been through the death of another young son, Tobias, in 2005, he having been Zara's twin.

If anything though, Gillis was even closer to McCrimmon, whom he had somewhat taken under his wing recently with respect to career advancement as the former teammate tried to climb the coaching ranks in order to reach the ultimate goal of becoming a head coach in the NHL.

"I was actually surprised he took the Russian job so quickly," said Gillis.

Gillis and McCrimmon would see each other and have a chat about old times every time the Canucks would play the Detroit Red Wings, which was the team McCrimmon worked for as an assistant to Mike Babcock until he took the job in Russia.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2011 C2

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