It’s no secret what the top story was in the hockey world today…and it’s a major tragedy. A plane carrying members of the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff outside of the town of Yaroslavl, killing all but 2 people on board. The Lokomotiv roster featured many former NHL players, including Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, former Devil Karel Rachunek, and former Cane Josef Vasicek, among others. But the tragedy hit close to home for me when I heard that former A-Devil Alex Vasyunov was on the plane. He split the 2010-11 season between Albany and New Jersey, scoring his first NHL goal while up with the big club and contributing 25 points (8 G, 17 A) in 50 games with Albany. Despite having his rights retained by the Devils as a restricted free agent, he elected to go home and signed a 1 year deal with Lokomotiv.
A few people on Twitter and Facebook shared some of their Alex stories, and I have one of my own. It was my first time meeting him after the Devils first home game in October. There was a postgame autograph session that night with the whole team, as in everyone sitting in a row signing a book/puck/other item and passing it down to the next guy, not much time to chat with any of them. He was sitting with fellow Russian Vladimir Zharkov towards the middle of the group. If I remember correctly, Vlad had a slight cut on his lower lip, which I mentioned to him. Alex chirped in, “you want to kiss it?” He totally threw me off because I didn’t think he could speak English! I kind of laughed and said no that’s ok and moved on down the line. I didn’t talk to him much for the rest of the season, just the occasional greetings at team functions.
Rest in peace, Alex. You have left us way too soon at 23. To honor him, here’s a little photo gallery of some of my pictures of him during the season.