OTTAWA - In the face of tragedy, Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar had a hard time finding words Wednesday.
As the Senators prepared to skate in an informal pre-training camp workout at the Bell Sensplex, their thoughts were a world away — after news of a plane crash with players from the aboard. Former Ottawa winger Pavol Demitra, defenceman Karel Rachunek and prospect Vitaly Anikeyenko (a 2005 draft pick) were aboard the flight.
“It’s just tragic,” said Alfredsson, who also played on the Swedish national team with Lokomotiv goalie Stefan Liv, a Detroit prospect. “Things can happen when you fly and if there’s an accident it’s usually with disastrous results. But it’s sad. These aren’t just hockey players — these are people.”
Alfredsson described Demitra and Rachunek as “good guys.”
“(Demitra) didn’t really find his potential with us, but you could see it was there,” said Alfredsson. “As for Rachunek, he did whatever it took for the team to be successful. Just a solid, steady defencemen. These were just good people.
“They’re leaving families behind and that’s the saddest part. There are a lot of families that are going to be affected by this and they’re going to have a hard time going forward.”
“I really don’t know what to say,” said the Russian-born Gonchar. “We’re not just talking about hockey players, we’re talking about young people with families. This is really tough. There’s not much to say.”
Demitra, 36, was selected by the Senators late in the 1992 NHL draft. And in one of the worst trade in the Senators’ history, he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues — for Christer Olsson — in 1996 by GM Pierre Gauthier because of a contract dispute
Yaroslavl captain Rachunek, 32, was with Ottawa from 1999-2004 and spent time as a partner of defenceman Wade Redden. Rachunek wrapped up his NHL career with the Devils in 2008 before moving overseas.
“It’s a terrible thing. It’s hard to believe something like this can happen. You lose a lot of good guys and a lot of good players,” said Ottawa defenceman Filip Kuba, who knew victim Josef Vasicek.
“A lot of guys around the league are going to be pretty sad right now because of what happened. Even if you don’t know everybody, you are touched by this and you know that it’s a really sad day.”
Goalie Marc Lamothe, who played for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, wore a Yaroslavl practice jersey in 2004-05.
“I feel kind of sick right now. I played there the year of the lockout and I made some good friends on that team,” said Lamothe. “They were a pretty young team and most of the guys (he played with) were still on that roster.”