A Year Later, Remembering Lokomotiv and Avalanche Players Skrastins and Salei

By Derek Kessinger

They were two super heroes in a list of Colorado Avalanche players; the Iron Man, Karlis Skrastins and Rusty, Ruslan Salei. They may not have had the prestige of Saint Patrick (Patrick Roy), Peter the Great (Peter Forsberg) and Super Joe (Joe Sakic), but they had all of the heart. Skrastins and Salei were two of the former NHL players who died in the Lokomotiv plane crash a year ago. The plane carrying the Russian hockey team from the KHL crashed in Yaroslavl, Russia, claiming 44 lives.

Skrastins appeared in 275 regular season games from 2003-2008 and set the NHL record for most consecutive games played by a defenseman with the club, then 495 games. He was the Avalanche’s best defenseman for much of that time because of his ability to block shots.

Salei was with the team for just over 100 games from 2007-2010 before being traded. He was a solid defenseman and well liked by his community. He actually joined the team in a trade for Skrastins and suffered an injury with the team, which led to his departure.

Both players left the NHL for the KHL to continue playing the game they loved. Their passion for the game led them to leave their lives in the United States for a chance to continue living their dream. Other former NHL players who lost their lives included Pavol Demitra, Brad McCrimmon and Igor Korolev. A year later a number of NHLers ventured to Russia to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. The tight-knit hockey community mourns the loss of these players and sends their thoughts and support to the families today. Their memory will not be forgotten.

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