Two former Nashville Predators players — Karlis Skrastins and Josef Vasicek — were among the 43 people killed Wednesday when an airplane carrying a team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League crashed.
The tragedy occurred one week after another former Nashville player, Wade Belak, committed suicide in a Toronto hotel room.
Also on board was defenseman Robert Dietrich, a Predators prospect who spent two seasons with Milwaukee before he opted to play in Europe last season.
“We’ve done lots of soul-searching in the last little bit with what’s gone on in our organization and in the hockey world,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “… This is something you can’t believe is going to happen in your lifetime and here it is before you.”
Skrastins, Vasicek and Dietrich were members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which was headed to Minsk for the start of the KHL regular season. Two survivors were said to have critical injuries.
Skrastins, a defenseman, was the Predators’ final pick of the 1998 draft, the franchise’s first, but was the first draft pick ever to play in a regular-season game for the franchise. He appeared in just two contests during that inaugural season and 307 total over parts of five seasons.
He did not miss a game during his final three years with Nashville. He later played with Colorado, Florida and most recently Dallas. He appeared in 74 games for the Stars last season, which raised his career total to 832 games, which included a streak of 495 straight (at the time a record for defensemen).
“The Dallas Stars family is shocked and saddened by the passing of Karlis Skrastins and so many other young lives in a plane crash in Russia today,” Dallas manager Joe Nieuwendyk said in a statement, which confirmed Skrastins was among the fatalities. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Karlis’ wife Zane and his two daughters, Karolina and Laurena, as well as all of the families and friends who lost loved ones on the plane.
“Karlis was a wonderful father and husband, as well as a good friend. He will be greatly missed.”
Vasicek joined the Predators in 2006 when he was acquired in a trade with Carolina for Scott Walker. He appeared in 38 games during the 2006-07 before he was traded back to Carolina that February.
His death was confirmed by the Czech embassy in Moscow.
"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 who at one time excelled in our League,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished.”