September 7, 2011 started off as a normal day in the hockey world, but the way it ended was anything but normal.
At 4:00 pm Moscow time, the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team of the Kontinental Hockey League was set to take off for their flight to Minsk, Belarus. The plane carried 37 passengers and 8 crew members.
As the plane took off, it reportedly overran the runway, went airborne briefly, stalled, and then crashed into a tower mast. The incident took the lives of all but 2 of the 45 people at the time of the crash. One of the two survivors died shortly after at the hospital after being under critical condition. The incident is considered to be a pilot error.
The Carolina Hurricanes wore Josef Vasicek’s number 63 on their chest for the entirety of the 2011-2012 season as they remembered an important member of the 2005-2006 Stanley Cup winning team. Josef Vasicek played in 341 games with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“Big Joe” continues to be remembered three years after the tragic incident in Russia. Josef Vasicek tallied 183 points in 460 NHL regular season games split amongst the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, and New York Islanders.
In 37 NHL post-season games, Josef Vasicek tallied 7 points.
Here is a statement released by Jim Rutherford, former President and General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, just days after the incident in 2011.
"“We are deeply saddened that Josef is no longer with us, and feel that it is important to remember and honor his life,” said Rutherford. “A part of both of our teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final, he played an important role in helping us establish our footing as a franchise in North Carolina. Beyond that, he was respected and well-liked by all, and we continue to hear from fans whose lives Josef touched. He is greatly missed.”"
Jim Rutherford now serves as the General Manager of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.