As most of you have come to know by now, another tragic event happened this week in the hockey world. After a summer that has been really rough with the passing of three different NHL players off the ice, something even harder to swallow happened Wednesday. A flight carrying the members of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff, resulting in 43 deaths. The flight was carrying the players, coaches, and crew on their way to what should have been the first game of their KHL season.
Among the players was former Dallas Stars player (and veteran of a few other teams) Karlis Skrastins, along with a handful of other former NHL players. It hit hard for the Stars and their fans. While this summer had been hard, we had yet to see anything like this. In one day one whole team passed away on the other side of the world, and it did not matter that they were playing in another league because quite a few of them were gentlemen that we had watched and cheered on over here. The Stars community was hit with the realization that someone who had just finished playing his last couple of seasons in the NHL and was a class-act, was now no longer with us.
Skrastins was the type of player that didn’t make the highlight reel often, but was the guy that GM’s and players wanted on their team. Skrastins played the last two seasons with Dallas and before that spent time with Nashville, Colorado, and a stint with Florida. He was a smart player. Not always a fast or super-talented player, he made himself valuable by being smart, knowing where to play, and being the type of stay at home Dman that every team needs one or two of. He was know as a shot-blocker, a guy who could get physical, had great defensive zone awareness, and played with determination. When it appeared he was heading home summer to finish out his playing days, I thought it a good move. He was nearing the end of his NHL days, and his family was back at home across the world.
But one thing that stands out about him is how his teammates, those that knew him, and the fans that met him spoke of Karlis. He was known as a family man and great father. Multiple guys said that he had great heart and was one of the toughest players they got the pleasure of playing with, but that he was also great to have in the locker room. He was in his way a quiet guy, but polite and kind. In the two times that I briefly met him, he didn’t say much other then simply answering the little questions I had, but he came off sincere and humble to me. Truly the type of man that all of us can respect. Adam Burish next to him in the locker room and said “He was a kind, kind, kind man. Quiet, always said ‘Hi’ in the morning and always said ‘Bye’when he left the rink. Just a kind, gentle guy. Just a freak on the ice. The ultimate competitor, played through anything tough. Just a kind, kind guy.”
I wanted to write this sooner, but found myself at a lose for words Wednesday after the news hit and even Thursday morning too. I had barely met the guy, but I had seen him play the last two seasons here and had always heard great things about him. In the end, I guess all we can do is thank him for his time here, for the type of player he was and the type of impression he left on those around him and in that locker room, and remember him and his family in our prayers and thoughts.
There is a great tribute to Skrastins that has many great shots of him while he was here with the Stars that was put together by Shannon Byrne. Click here to see it, and enjoy some of his greatest moments with the Stars