Some fans may not know or remember the name Alexander Vasyunov when they first hear it. He wasn’t very prominent when it comes to the team. He only had one career goal and four career assists. He played well in the AHL and showed a ton of promise. That is, until the sad day of September 7, 2011.
Saturday was the two year anniversary of the plane crash that took many lives of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL hockey team. He went over there to get more professional experience so he could make the New Jersey Devils full time the next season. Vasyunov did not survive the crash and lost his life at the tender age of 23. It was an extremely sad day for the entire organization.
General Manager Lou Lamoriello was having trouble putting words to the situation. He talked of how Vasyunov “loved being a Devil” and how he was such a skilled player.
Vasyunov would have been useful for the club today. He was a heavy handed shot that scored goals at will. The progression he showed on the defensive side every year was evident as he seemed to get stronger and stronger. He was becoming a very good skater as well.
This tragedy is something that has never happened in American professional sports, although it has happened to singular players. Everyone in the New York area knows about what happened to Thurman Munson back in 1979. Rocky Marciano, quite possibly the greatest boxer of all-time, died in a plane crash after he had retired. Roberto Clemente died going back to Nicaragua to bring supplies after an earthquake decimated the Central American country. Cory Lidle crashed his plane into a building in New York during the 2006 offseason and was killed instantly.
We will never know what could have been with Vasyunov. He seemed like he had the ability to become a special player. The former second round pick was a teammate for many of the Devils on the team now. He may have only played in 18 games, but that was enough to make an impact for some.
Vasyunov would have been 25 years old if he were alive today, and he would have been entering the prime of his career. Based on everything that Lamoriello has said about him, Vasyunov would have been back in a Devils uniform and playing a key role on this team. It is sad to think of such a young talent losing his life in such a tragic way. RIP Alexander Vasyunov.