WINNIPEG - Brad McCrimmon touched many people inside the new Winnipeg Jets organization.
The former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman and Atlanta Thrashers assistant coach was among the 43 people who died in a tragic plane crash Wednesday, and several Jets took time to share their memories of him.
“It’s pure sadness really,” said Jets defenceman and Winnipegger Derek Meech, who worked with McCrimmon in Detroit with the Red Wings. “He was great with me and everybody that came around him. It’s hard to believe right now.”
“He definitely gave me a lot of insight, tips and helped me with my confidence. He was an unbelievable guy to have around the room. A player’s coach. It’s just really sad.”
That was the prevailing emotion as news of the tragedy spread throughout the hockey world. Jets forward Bryan Little got to know McCrimmon during his coaching days with the Atlanta Thrashers before the NHL team moved to Winnipeg.
“He was a great guy and a mentor for the younger guys. He was serious at times but he could lighten the mood pretty easily. He was a fun guy to be around. Whenever I got frustrated, he was a guy who came to me and talked to me about keeping level-headed and keeping focused.”
Soft-spoken Jets defenceman Tobias Enstrom was one of the many players McCrimmon mentored over the years.
“He meant a lot to me,” said Enstrom. “He was a great person and always took care of me and made it easy for me. On and off the ice, he was a really good guy, and it’s tough right now.”
Jets centre Jim Slater said McCrimmon was “a fabulous man.”
“He was a funny guy and always had a smile on his face,” Slater said. “He was a brilliant hockey man too.”
Shane Hnidy, who recently retired from the NHL to take a job in broadcasting, was coached by McCrimmon in Atlanta as well and also was hit hard by Wednesday’s news.
“First and foremost, I don’t think you’ll find a more well-liked coach,” he said. “He was somebody who came to the rink every day and made it enjoyable. He loved the game, he was passionate. He was an amazing guy and it’s such a loss. My heart goes out to his wife Maureen and his kids, Carlin and Liam.”Several other former NHLers were killed in the crash, including former Jets forward Igor Korolev, who was with the team from 1994 to 1996.
Korolev, the team's assistant coach, turned 41 Tuesday. He was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the second round, 38th overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. He played over 700 games in the NHL.
The Jets claimed Korolev prior to the start of the 1994-95 season, and he was a Jet for the team's final two seasons. In 1995-96, he scored 22 goals, helping send the Jets to their first playoff berth in three seasons.Russian-born Korolev and his wife became Canadian citizens in 2000. He settled north of Toronto after retiring from the NHL during the lockout.
The Jets issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon regarding the tragedy.
“We join together with the entire hockey community to mourn the tragedy that occurred earlier today. We would like to express our sincerest sympathies to the friends and family of former Winnipeg Jet Igor Korolev and former Brandon Wheat King Brad McCrimmon, as well as the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization.”