Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he knows former assistant coach Brad McCrimmon was on the flight that went down Wednesday in Russia.
The plane was carrying the Lokomotiv ice hockey team from Yaroslavl to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where it was to play Thursday against Dinamo Minsk in the opening game of the season of the Kontinental Hockey League. The jet crashed into a river bank Wednesday while taking off in western Russia, killing at least 43 people and leaving two others critically injured, officials said.
The International Ice Hockey Federation says 27 players on the Yaroslavl team were killed, along with two coaches and seven club officials.
Many former NHL players including Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek, Karlis Skrastins, Josef Vasicek, Alexander Vasyunov and McCrimmon were among the victims.
McCrimmon, who was assistant to Babcock for the past three seasons in Detroit, took over as head coach of the Lokomotiv in May.
"I went to Brad and his wife's house this morning with my wife, and they were not there," Babcock said. "I got some calls, as you can imagine, this morning. I did some checking on my own to confirm whether he was on the flight or not."
McCrimmon spent 18 seasons as a player in the NHL. He played defense with the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers and Phoenix Coyotes.
McCrimmon was with Detroit for three seasons between 1990-1993 and played in 203 games with the Red Wings.
He began his NHL coaching career as an assistant with the New York Islanders. He was head coach for the minor league Saskatoon Blades. He also coached for the Calgary Flames and Atlanta Thrashers before joining the Red Wings staff.
McCrimmon left Detroit to take the head coaching job with Yaroslavl.
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom commented on new of McCrimmon's death.
"He was always happy, looking at things in a positive way, trying to encourage players if things weren't going their way," Lidstrom said. "And I thought he was a great assistant coach for us."
Former Red Wings defenseman Salei spent the past season with Detroit. Babcock said Wednesday he was hopeful Salei was not on the flight. However, the team confirmed later in the day that Salei was one of the victims.
Salei played a few years in Anaheim when Babcock was head coach for the Ducks. In the 2010-2011 season, he appeared in 75 games with the Red Wings and scored 10 points. He also appeared in 11 playoff games with the team, scoring one playoff goal. He played in 917 NHL games since the 1996-1997 season when he joined the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He was with the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche before joining the Red Wings.
Salei became known as a solid defenseman who was not afraid to drop the gloves. He had a career 204 points and 1,065 penalty minutes.
He signed with the KHL Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in July. He was a native of Belarus, where the plane was supposed to land.
Red Wings prospect goalie Stefan Liv also was killed in the crash. Liv signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings in 2006 and spent the season with the team's AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. He played in 34 games with the Griffins that year before being assigned to the Toledo Storm. He later returned to Sweden where he played professional hockey until he joined Lokomotiv.
Lidstrom said he found out about the crash from teammate Pavel Datsyuk during Wednesday morning's workout at Joe Louis Arena.
"I was told this morning. We were in here working out and Pavel Datsyuk came in and said there was a plane that went down somewhere in Russia," Lidstrom said. "We were about 20 minutes away from stepping on the ice when Pavel came in and told us. It's pretty quiet in here now."