Ontario Hockey League Grad Leaves Us Too Soon

It’s always a horrible tragedy when a commercial jetliner goes down. When Air France flight 447 crashed in 2009, enroute from Brazil to France, 228 lives were immediately lost. The impact would have been devastating to the family, friend and co-workers of each and every one of those souls.

josef vasicek lokomotiv yaroslavl russia khl hockey
Josef Vasicek as a member of the Czech Republic National Team.

When the charter carrying the members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of Russia’s KHL crashed this past week, 43 lives were lost. Of course, most of the fatalities were not run-of-the-mill individuals. Many were not just known by family and friends but by the populations of whole countries and even continents. A good number of the 140,000,000 in Russia would have at least heard of the players from Yaroslavl and many were known throughout the hockey circles of Europe and North America. The impact is still incomprehensible.

The names of Pavol Demitra and Ruslan Salei would stand out most to the NHL hockey fan. The coaching staff, consisting of Brad McCrimmon, Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev, were all retired veterans of the National Hockey League.

One player that lost his life played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. Josef Vasicek played two seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 1998-99 and 1999-00. In his final season with the Greyhounds, Vasicek put up great numbers with 26 goals, 46 assists for 72 points in just 54 games. He added another 2o points for Sault Ste. Marie in 17 playoff games.

Josef played for the Czech Republic at the 2000 IIHF World Junior Tournament, helping his team to a Gold Medal. A regular on the Czech national team, he won gold at the 2005 World Hockey Championships and played in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Vasicek came to the Ontario Hockey League already a prospect of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes took him in the fourth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Drat, 91st overall. In total, he played 460 games in the NHL from 2000-01 to 2007-08, mostly with Carolina. He played a half season with the Nashville Predators in 2006-07 and last played in the NHL with the New York Islanders in 2007-08.

Josef went to the Stanley Cup finals twice in his NHL career, both times with the Hurricanes. In 2002, the team lost to the Detroit Red Wings and in 2006, they were Stanley Cup champions.

2011-12 was to be Vasicek’s fourth season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. In his first season, the team made it to the finals before losing in seven games to Ak Bars Kazan. The past two seasons, Yaroslavl has been beaten in the Western Coference finals. This past playoffs saw Josef lead the league in assists (15) and points (22) despite not making the finals.

He has played in the KHL All-Star game for the past two seasons and wore the ‘A’ on his jersey with Lokomotiv.

Josef and the rest of the players from Lokomotiv Yaroslavl will be sadly missed throughout the hockey world.


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