WINNIPEG - The hockey world has lost a tough and skilled former player, coach and Stanley Cup-winner. Kelly McCrimmon, general manager of the Brandon Wheat Kings, has lost his hero.
Following the death of former NHL veteran Brad McCrimmon in a plane crash in Russia on Wednesday, his younger brother has been hit extremely hard by the tragedy.
“Growing up together, he has always been my hero and my best friend,” Kelly McCrimmon, 50, said of his 52-year-old only sibling, who was killed along with 43 others when the plane carrying the Kontinental Hockey League’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed north of Moscow.
“I feel bad for all the families of the victims. It’s devastating. It’s not something that you can prepare for. We’re going to miss him.”
Brad McCrimmon, a husband and father of a son and daughter, accepted Lokomotiv’s head coaching position this summer following about a dozen NHL seasons as an assistant coach.
The loss of McCrimmon, as well as assistant coach and former Winnipeg Jets player Igor Korolev and virtually the entire Lokomotiv team, came as it was headed to Minsk in Belarus for what’s believed to have been its first game of the KHL season. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff.
Kelly McCrimmon pointed out that it was “just the two boys” in their family while they were raised in Dodsland, Sask.
“We were very close. We grew up on the farm. So we did everything together, from work to playing hockey, to supporting each other,” Kelly McCrimmon said from Brandon, where he also co-owns the WHL’s Wheat Kings.
“We’re devastated,” he added. “We feel really bad for his wife and for my parents. He’s going to be missed.”
Brad McCrimmon was a star defenceman for the Wheat Kings from 1976 to 1979, helping them to a WHL championship in his final season with the team. He then played 18 seasons in the NHL and won the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.
The Wheat Kings, jointly with WHL commissioner Ron Robison, described McCrimmon as “one of the greatest players” in the history of not only the franchise, but the league, as well as “a great leader who had a major impact on every team” he played for or coached.
“He was a true pro,” Kelly McCrimmon said. “And I’ve always admired how he always had time for people. He was a very genuine, honest man.”