Former Predators Karlis Skrastins and Josef Vasicek, as well as 2007 Predators draft pick Robert Dietrich, were among the players killed in a plane crash in Russia, according to passenger rosters and reports from their respective countries.
The Yak-42 was carrying members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl when it crashed shortly after takeoff near the Yaroslavl airport. The flight was bound for Minsk. According to a team spokesperson, no members of the team aboard the plane survived. There were reportedly 43 people onboard the flight who were killed.
Skrastins, 37, was drafted by the Predators in the 9th round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut during the Predators inaugural season and managed to find a permanent spot on the roster during the 1999-2000 season. Wearing #3, the defenseman would play 307 games in Nashville, scoring 13 goals and adding 41 assists. Most notably, after missing a game on February 17, 2000, Skrastins did not miss another in his time with Nashville, playing all 82 games in his final three seasons with the Predators. In 2003 offseason, he was traded to Colorado, but he continued his consecutive game streak all the way until February 25, 2007 – a streak of 495-games and an NHL record for a defenseman. Skrastins would go on to play for Florida and Dallas before moving to Lokomotiv this offseason.
Vasicek, 30, was acquired by the Predators in the offseason of 2006 from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Scott Walker. Wearing #63, the center appeared in 38 games for Nashville while scoring 4 goals and 9 assists. Vasicek was drafted in the 4th round of the 1998 Draft by the Hurricanes and cracked the roster for the 2000-01 season. He would play the next six seasons with Carolina, winning the 2006 Stanley Cup. In the offseason of 2006, the Nashville Predators traded long-time Predator Scott Walker to Carolina in exchange for Vasicek. Vasicek played only part of one season before becoming part of one of Nashville’s more curious trades. On February 9, 2007, the Predators traded him back to Carolina in exchange for Eric Belanger. Belanger was then shipped out the door to the Thrashers in exchange for Vitaly Vishnevsky. Vasicek would spend the next season with the Islanders before heading to Russia and playing for Lokomotiv beginning in the 2008-09 season. He was the Lokomotiv’s alternate captain.
Dietrich, 25, was drafted by Nashville in the 6th round of the 2007 draft. The relatively miniscule (5’10″) defenseman played for two seasons in the DEL in Germany before he made it onto a North American roster in 2008 with the Milwaukee Admirals. He appeared in one preseason game for Nashville in 2009, playing 12:14 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Nashville on September 19th while wearing #43. He would go on to have a breakout season in Milwaukee, leading all Admirals defensemen in scoring with 6 goals and 37 assists. In 2010-11, Dietrich returned to the DEL in Germany before joining Lokomotiv for the upcoming season.
The tragedy is the fourth of the offseason to involve active or recently retired hockey players. The New York Rangers’ Derek Boogaard passed away in May, while the Winnipeg Jets’ Rick Rypien died in August. Recent Nashville Predators retiree Wade Belak passed away just one week ago today.
Statement from Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile
“The Nashville Predators’ organization shares the pain and suffering being felt throughout the hockey world today following the tragic plane crash in Russia involving the team Lokomotiv Yaraslavl. Included on the team were two former Predators’ players – Karlis Skrastins and Josef Vasicek – along with Robert Dietrich, a 2007 draft choice who played two seasons in Milwaukee and remained on the club’s reserve list.
“On behalf of the organization and our fans, our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends of all the passengers on board. Karlis, Josef and Robert all made contributions to our organization, for which we will forever be grateful. They were all playing the game they love, had so much more to offer and have left us far too soon. We offer our deepest sympathy and condolences to their families at this most difficult time.”
Statement from Milwaukee Admirals President Jon Greenberg
“The Milwaukee Admirals family has lost two of its alumni today in the tragic plane crash in Russia. Karlis Skrastins and Robert Dietrich both made Milwaukee their homes for two seasons. They were not only very good up-and-coming hockey players but also wonderful people. Our condolences go out to their families as well as to those of the other players, coaches and staff who perished.
“The world of hockey is like a family and this summer has been a sad one for all of us. We look forward to the start of training camps when we can take time as a group to consider all that has happened.”