Pavol Demitra among the dead in Russian hockey team plane crash

Pavol Demitra played three seasons for the Wild.

Pavol Demitra played three seasons for the Wild.

A Russian jet carrying one of the country's best professional hockey teams crashed Wednesday evening, killing dozens, including former Wild forward Pavol Demitra.

Reports have as many as 44 dead in the plane crash, including nearly the entire Lokomotiv team, which is based out of Yaroslavl. One Russian news agency  reported that a single crew member survived the crash.

Demitra's agent confirmed this morning that he was among the dead.

The team plane had tried to fly out of Yaroslavl, but burst into enormous flames and crashed shortly after takeoff.


Demitra's agent Matt Keator confirmed for the Star Tribune that the Slovak star was among those on the plane at the time, saying Demitra would be missed.

Before joining the Wild, Demitra played for the LA Kings and St. Louis Blues.

Before joining the Wild, Demitra played for the LA Kings and St. Louis Blues.

"He was a great friend and a great teammate," Keator told the Star Tribune.

Though mostly constituted of top-flight Russian players, the team also had players that hailed from across Europe. Vladimir Malkov, a team spokesman, confirmed the enormity of the loss to the New York Times.

"We have no team any more," Malkov said.. "All our starting players, and all the service people, they all burned in the crash."

Demitra played three seasons with the Wild after joining the team in a draft-day trade in 2006. The diminutive playmaker's best scoring days were behind him, but he still contributed to a high-flying offense with Wild star Marian Gaborik.

After the 2008 season, Demitra left the Wild to sign with the Vancouver Canucks, where he spent two seasons, the second of which was beset by injuries. Finally, last spring, Demitra signed with Lokomotiv, where he helped the team to a third-place league finish last season.

Yesterday's crash adds to a miserable year in Russian air disasters: According to the New York Times, eight crashes -- six of them since June -- have killed 120 people across the country.