As many NHL players head over to Europe during the summer to play in other leagues, such players as Defenseman Ruslan Salei, former assistant coach Brad McCrimmon and Wings prospect Stefan Liv, who has been playing here in Grand Rapids with the Griffins along with 40 other players were killed Friday September 9th in a plane crash near a river just north of Moscow.  The Kontinental Hockey League’s “Lokomotiv” hockey team icluded such NHL stars as Pavol Demitra along with Salei.

Personally, being from Traverse City, I haven’t missed a Red Wings Training Camp since 1997.  This is the first year I have had to miss it.  I still pay very close attention to the NHL Prospect Tournament that plays host to such teams as The Lightening, Capitals, Wild, Stars, Hurricanes, NY Rangers, Blues, Buffalo and several others.  I was sent a shot by a fellow sports photographer that showed Red Wings #13 Pavel Datsyuk wearing #24.

After doing a little digging, I found that a friend recently suggested to Pavel that he change his jersey number for the preseason as a way to honor former teammate and countryman, Ruslan Salei, who was killed earlier this month in a plane crash shortly after takeoff in Russia. reports that Datsyuk will set aside his customary No. 13 during the Red Wings’ training camp and eight preseason games, and wear No. 24, which Salei wore last season in Detroit.  Pavel Datsyuk said,

“I think everybody misses Ruslan Salei,”.  “It’s an honor to wear his preseason jersey. I have only good memories when I remember Ruslan. I’m very happy to put No. 24 on my jersey for the preseason.”

While the entire team has been affected by the loss of Salei, McCrimmon, and former prospect Stefan Liv, it has particularly hurt Datsyuk, who had a close bond to Salei. The pair used to sit together on team flights and bus rides to and from rinks.  Datsyuk also said,

“I had hoped to know him more (then) one year,” Datsyuk said. “We knew each other before, but last year we flew together and talked. Now I miss him.
“I have one daughter, but he has three kids, and one of the kids plays hockey. I think it’s tough. He was a real good man.”

The Wings wrap up training camp today and get ready for the preseason.  The first televised game (aside from NHL network) is Sunday September 25th on FS Detroit at 5:00pm.  The Wings are set to play their “Red & White Game” (a scrimmage where they split the team into two) here in Grand rapids at Van Andel Arena on September 27th.

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