Colorado Avalanche: Remembering Two Players on Lokomotiv

On September 7, 2011, a plane crashed with members of a Russian hockey team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Among the victims were Karlis Skrastins and Ruslan Salei.

As the Colorado Avalanche prepare for the upcoming season, I wanted to take a moment to remember one of the greatest tragedies in modern sports history. On September 7, 2011, just over six years ago, a plane carrying the players and staff of Russian hockey club, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed, killing 44 people onboard, including two members of the Avalanche family.

Personal and Colorado Avalanche Reflections

As an Avalanche fan, and a hockey fan in general, I still remember waking up that morning and reading reports about what had happened. I just could not comprehend the scale of the tragedy. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen. “What do they mean a plane crashed and an entire hockey team is dead?” I kept asking myself.

And when I researched the crash further, and learned that one of my favorite players, Karlis Skrastins had been onboard, I lost it. I just could not stop crying. For days. And then, the gradual heartbreak of the Ruslan Salei portion of the story sunk in. There were conflicting reports of whether Rusty had been on the plane. Alas, he had. And he too, was gone.

DENVER – OCTOBER 01: Ruslan Salei

In the days after the crash, I went out and got my old burgundy third jersey personalized to be a Karlis Skrastins jersey. It may be my favorite of all the Colorado Avalanche jerseys I have. It hangs proudly in my room, adorned with my Love for Lokomotiv bracelet. Next to it hangs a Ruslan Salei hockey card from his Avalanche days.

As a fan, I still miss both of them. I can hardly imagine what their family and friends still go through on a daily basis. They were both great hockey players, and by all accounts, two of the nicest people to ever play the sport.

Karlis Skrastins of the Colorado Avalanche on October 25, 2005 at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NHLImages)

Favorite Memories

Allow me to end this reflection with a few of my favorite memories of Rusty and Skratch. I can still see Salei ripping a slap shot past a Minnesota goalie in a playoff game from 2008. I also distinctly remember the ceremony when Skrastins broke the consecutive games played by a defenseman record, looking incredibly happy with his family in attendance.

My favorite memory of Skratch is an OT goal he scored against the Rangers, in 2003. He was in his first season with the team, and I had not yet grown to appreciate the player he was. I was at the game, and I clearly remember saying to my dad, “Why do we have this guy on the ice? He never does anything good for the Colorado Avalanche.” Later on that shift, he scored, and I forever became a Skrastins fan.

I would love to hear any memories that you all may have of Skrastins, Salei, or any of the other victims of this tragedy. Finally, I would like to conclude by sending all of my Love to Lokomotiv!