A plane carrying a hockey team from Russia's Kontinental Hockey League crashed today and former Blue Pavol Demitra has been confirmed among the 43 dead.
Demitra's agent, Matt Keator, told the Associated Press, "This is just awful. He was such a popular guy with everyone he has ever played with."
Another former Blue, Igor Korolev, was also killed in today's crash.
Lokomotiv, Demitra's team, was traveling to play a game Thursday against Dynamo Minsk. According to Dmitry Chesnokov, a hockey reporter for Yahoo.com, the plane crashed less than a mile from the runway, caught fire and broke in two.
SovSport, a Russian website, is reporting that a Lokomotiv official cofirmed that every player from the team's main roster was onboard the plane. After earlier reports that a crew member may have been the lone survivor, the website is now reporting that forward Alexander Galimov has survived, according to his agent.
"At first we didn't want to believe it," the Lokomotiv official said, according to Chesnokov. "But right now there is no hope. The team is gone."
Demitra, 36, who signed with Lokomotiv in 2010, played parts of eight seasons with the Blues from 1997-2004. He totaled 204 goals (No. 6 in team history) and 493 points (No. 5) in 494 games.
The Blues acquired Demitra in November 1996, sending defenseman Crister Olsson to the Ottawa Senator's for the winger's rights. In March 1997, Demitra signed a contract with the Blues and began his career in St. Louis.
In his first full NHL season, 1997-98, the player drafted 227th overall in 1993 scored 22 goals and had 52 points for the Blues. Demitra would then lead the Blues in points in four of the next six seasons, including a career-high 93 points in 2002-03.
"I thought he was always one of our highest-skilled players on our team," former Blues general manager Larry Pleau said today. "He grew up here. I think he really matured and grew up here. Became a better person and a better player. Married, children ... you see these things happen, and he was part of your life. It's shame when you think about the family and his wife and the kids."
Demitra went on to play with the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild. In 847 NHL games, he scored 304 goals and had 768 assists. He made three appearances at the Olympics with Slovakia.
Korolev, who turned 41 Tuesday, was an assistant coach for Lokomotiv. The Blues drafted Korolev in the second round (38th overall) in the 1992 draft. He played two seasons with the Blues (1992-93, '93-94), registering 10 goals and 43 points in 147 games.
Blues President John Davidson released a statement this afternoon, saying, "On behalf of the St. Louis Blues, we are deeply saddened by the tragedy that took place today in Russia involving the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey club. The entire hockey community has been affected by this news and our most heart-felt condolences go out to the families of those who perished.
"The St. Louis Blues have lost two members of our family, Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families as well. Pavol and Igor were both incredibly passionate and dedicated players and their influence in St. Louis was not only felt on the ice, but throughout the community."
Among the other former NHL players killed in the crash were Ruslan Salei, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins and head coach Brad McCrimmon.