According to numerous reports, a plane carrying Russian Kontinental Hockey League team Yaroslavl Lokomotiv crashed Wednesday morning. The Associated Press is reporting that at least 43 people have been killed.
The AP confirmed with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry that the plane, headed for Minsk, crashed immediately after takeoff at an airport near Yaroslav in Western Russia.
The devastating news rocked the hockey community and hit closer to home for a few players skating at the team's practice facility in Syosset.
37-year-old Alexei Yashin, who has been skating with the Islanders this week, played for two seasons with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (2007-09) and spent the morning on the phone and internet trying to find out more.
"It's a sad day in the history of hockey, and not just hockey, the whole country," Yashin said after skating with 20-plus Islanders at IceWorks. "A lot of my friends were on that plane, we've all played together. I just want to give my condolences to all their families. It's a tough day for everyone in hockey."
After hearing the news this morning, the former Islander approached fellow Russian, Islanders defensive prospect Anton Klementyev, to break the news once he arrived to the rink.
Klementyev, who played one game for the Lokomotiv in 2008-09, still trains with the team back home and said he "has many friends, two of my best friends" that still play for Yaroslavl.
Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov arrived at the practice rink for the first time Wednesday morning. He spent half of last season with the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg before he returned to the NHL to be claimed off waivers by the Islanders.
"It's tough. You have chills," Nabokov said. "My heart is over there."
Former Islander Josef Vasicek, who spent the 2007-08 season with New York, is on Lokomotiv's 2010-11 roster. The Czech Republic embassy confirmed his death late Wednesday morning.
Czech defenseman Radek Martinek, who was close friends with Vasicek while both played for the Islanders, was distraught.
"He was one of my best buddies. He was in my wedding. I can't believe this," said Martinek, who signed this summer with Columbus. "I don't even want to think about this right now."
Swedish prospect David Ullstrom was also affected; the 22-year-old center trying to find out any news he could about his friend, Polish-born Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv.
Swedish news outlet Aftonbladet reported this morning that Stefan Liv's agent had not been able to make contact with Liv.