Ex-NY NHL players die in crash

Alexander Karpovtsev, a rookie defenseman on the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup winning team in 1994, was killed in the plane crash in Russia on Wednesday that claimed most of a Kontinental Hockey League team.

Karpovtsev, 41, was serving as an assistant coach for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He played 12 seasons in the NHL with the
Rangers, Toronto, Chicago, the New York Islanders, and Florida.

He and three Rangers teammates were the first Russian players
to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. Karpovtsev had three goals and 15 assists with a plus-minus of 12 that season.

Alexander Vasyunov, who played 18 games for the New Jersey Devils last season, was also among those who died, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.

Vasyunov was 23.

"I don't think anybody can prepare for something like this," Lamoriello said. "It's just devastating news. Words can't express my personal feelings."

A Czech embassy official has also confirmed the deaths of Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek, Czech players who were aboard the plane. Rachunek played for the Devils and Rangers, and Vasicek last played in the NHL for the Islanders.

"The New York Rangers organization is greatly saddened after learning of today's tragedy," Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "Words cannot begin to express the magnitude of devastation for such unimaginable loss.

"Two Rangers alumni and one former draft pick perished in the accident. Alexander Karpotsev helped to bring a Stanley Cup Championship to New York in 1994. Karel Rachunek played two seasons in New York, and Jan Marek was a former draft pick. Our sincerest condolences go out to the families of these players, and the families of all those lost today."

Lokomotiv coach Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian who played 18 seasons in the NHL, also died in the crash as well as Pavol Demitra, who played for the St. Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks and was the Slovakian national team captain.

Vasyunov left the Devils in the offseason to sign with Lokomotiv. The KHL team was flying to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to take on Dinamo Minsk on Thursdsay night in their season opener. But the plane carrying the team crashed into a river bank while taking off in western Russia, killing at least 43 and leaving two others injured, officials said, according to The Associated Press.

"I can't say enough about him as a young man," Lamoriello said of Vasyunov. "He certainly had talent. His whole career was in front of him."

Vasyunov compiled one goal and four assists for the Devils last season. A left winger, he was selected by the team in the second round (No. 58 overall) of the 2006 NHL draft.

Rachunek, a defenseman, appeared in 47 games with New Jersey in 2007-08, compiling four goals and nine assists. He also played with the Rangers in parts of the 2003-04 and 2006-07 seasons, compiling seven goals and 23 assists in 78 games.

The 32-year-old native of Zlinwaldow, Czech Republic, appeared in 371 career NHL games, compiling 22 goals and 118 assists. He was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the ninth round (229th overall) of the 1997 NHL draft.

Vasicek, a center, appeared in 81 games for the Islanders in 2007-08, getting 16 goals and 19 assists.

The 30-year-old native of Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic, appeared in 460 career NHL games, compiling 77 goals and 106 assists. He was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round (91st overall).

"On behalf of the entire Devils organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the entire Lokomotiv club," Lamoriello said in a statement issued by the Devils.

Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.