A plane carrying a top Russian hockey team to a season-opening game crashed moments after takeoff Wednesday, killing 43 people and leaving two survivors in grave condition.
The dead included three former NHL athletes who played for teams in the New York area: Karel Rachunek, 32, who spent three seasons with the Rangers and Devils; Alexander Vasyunov, 23, who played for the Devils last season; and Josef Vasicek, 30, who played for the Islanders during the 2007-08 season.
The crash of the Yak-42 aircraft, whose victims included members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League, stunned the sports world. It is likely to increase concerns about Russian aviation safety less than three months after another crash killed 45 people.
The Russian-made plane was carrying 37 passengers and eight crew members to Minsk, Belarus, when it crashed into a riverbank a few miles from the airport near Yaroslavl, 150 miles northeast of Moscow.
Two people survived and were hospitalized, a Russian official said.
Also confirmed dead were Pavol Demitra, a threetime NHL All-Star with the St. Louis Blues; Karlis Skrastins, a defenseman for the Dallas Stars; and former Red Wings assistant coach and NHL player Brad McCrimmon.
"Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world — including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates and friends," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.