Oilers' Smith mourns McCrimmon

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 PM ET

EDMONTON - For Steve Smith, the news of Brad McCrimmon's death was tough to take.

The Edmonton Oilers assistant coach knew McCrimmon well, going back to their playing days. They also worked together with the Calgary Flames.

"I walked into the locker room this morning and Tom Renney and Ralph Kruger told me the news," said Smith. "I was shocked to hear it and deeply saddened. Brad was a great guy and I thought about his family and how shocked and upset they would be. It was a sad day."

McCrimmon was one of members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl club who died when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday in Russia.

McCrimmon, 52, a native of Dodsland, Sask., was in his first year as coach of the Russian club. Prior to that he spent three years as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings. He had also worked as an assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders.

"I worked with him in Calgary," said Smith. "I was coaching there and decided to unretire and play again. He came in and took my job, so I got to know him well.

"He was a great guy. Every time we would see each other we would get together to have a beer and tell stories. He'll be missed."

Selected by the Boston Bruins in the first round Ñ 15th overall -Ñ of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, McCrimmon went on to play 18 seasons.

He spent time with the Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Flames, Red Wings, Hartford Whalers and Phoenix Coyotes.

"Brad was a very cerebral player, he was a student of the game," Smyth said. "He was quite the player to contend with. He was the consummate professional and a guy anyone would love to have on his team."

The latest incident adds to the list of tragic deaths endured by professional hockey this off-season.

Three former NHLers, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, died this summer.

"It has been a tough off-season," Smith said. "Wade Belak was a good friend of mine going back from my days in Calgary.

"Something like this puts things into perspective and makes you appreciate how lucky you are on a day-to-day basis."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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