Moscow: One player and a crew member were critically injured but survived Wednesday's crash of a plane carrying a top Russian ice hockey team at the central Russian city of Yaroslavl.
'This is the darkest day in the history of our sport,' said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel as almost the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team was wiped out in the crash that occurred soon after the plane took off from Yaroslavl.
'This is not only a tragedy. This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community.'
According to the chief local surgeon, the Russian player, identified as Alexander Galimov, and the crew member had survived but were in grave condition.
'Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world, including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, teammates and friends who at one time excelled in our league,' NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Some NHL stars also expressed their shock and sorrow over the tragedy.
Alex Ovechkin, a Russian superstar for the NHL Washington Capitals, said: 'I am in shock!' He termed the crash as 'a national tragedy'.
At least 44 people have been declared dead after a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team crashed during take-off near Yaroslavl, some 250 km from Moscow.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, founded in 1949 as the team of the railways ministry, is one of Russia's leading hockey teams.