RIGA -- Karlis Skrastins, one of the greatest Latvian hockey players of all times, has died in a tragic plane crash in Russia.
Almost all of Skrastins' KHL team, Lokomotiv, was killed in the Sept. 7 crash. A total of 44 people were killed in the crash, including players, coaches and staff members.
"This is the darkest day in the history of our sport. This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from ten nations," said IIHF President René Fasel.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community with so many nationalities involved,” he said.
The 18-year-old Yak-42 passenger jet crashed shortly after taking off from Yaroslavl's city airport. Initial reports said the jet may have hit a local radar antenna.
The team had been on its way to the first regular season game in Belarus.
Skrastins (born 1974) was a defenseman who spent 13 years playing in the NHL, where he played for Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers and the Dallas Stars before transferring to Lokomotiv in this past off-season. He once held an NHL league record by appearing in 495 consecutvie games which was at the time a record for a defenceman. He was also a member of the Latvian national team, captaining the team at the Winter Olympics in 2010.
Skrastins is survived by his wife, Zane, and two daughters, Karolina and Laurena.
Latvian club Dinamo Riga - who also play in the KHL - expressed their sympathies on their official team website. "We express our deepest sympathies to all the families of the air crash fatalities, and in particular the family of Latvian Karlis Skrastins", read a statement on the site.
The KHL season has now been suspended indefinitely. Dinamo Riga had been due to play their opening game on Friday.