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Russian hockey team perishes in crash

Sept. 7, 2011, Tunoshna, Russia - A Russian jet carrying a top hockey team crashed while taking off Wednesday in western Russia, killing 43 people and leaving two critically injured, officials said.


September 7, 2011
By Carey Fredericks

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 crashed immediately after taking off from an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River, 240 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

The ministry said the plane was carrying 45 people, including 37 passengers and eight crew. All but two were killed in the crash.

The ministry said the plane was carrying the Lokomotiv hockey team from Yaroslavl.

The team was heading to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play Thursday against Dynamo Minsk in the opening game of the season of the Kontinental Hockey League.

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The KHL is an international club league that pits together teams from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is a leading force in Russian hockey and came third in the KHL last year. It's coached by Canadian Brad McCrimmon and includes several international stars in its ranks, such as
Stefan Liv of Sweden and Czech Republic players Josef Vaicek and Jan Marek. Lokomotiv was a three-time Russian League champion in 1997, 2002 and 2003 and took the bronze last season.

It wasn't immediately clear which players were on board the Yak-42.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has sent his transport minister to the site of the crash, 15 kilometres east of Yaroslavl.

Former Montreal Canadien Brent Sopel, who is now playing in Russia, tweeted shortly after the crash: "In shock. Prayers out to all of the KHL families.''

McCrimmon, 52, is a native of Saskatchewan. He played defence for six NHL teams — Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix from 1979-80 to 1996-97.

He played 1,222 regular season games in the NHL, collecting 81 goals, 322 assists and 1,416 penalty minutes.

McCrimmon was an assistant coach with the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Detroit Red Wings. He also served as head coach of the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades.

The short- and medium-range Yak-42 has been in service since 1980 and dozens are still in service with Russian and other airlines.

In June, another Russian passenger jet crashed in the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk, killing 47 people. The crash of that Tu-134 plane has been blamed on pilot error.

President Dmitry Medvedev has announced plans to take aging Soviet-built planes out of service starting next year.