Tampa Bay Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier: "I didn't feel safe" flying charters while playing in Russia
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier remembers Ruslan Salei as a big personality who spoke, especially when he was joking, at the top of his lungs. He also recalls Salei, from Belarus, and his teammate for Kazan, the Russian-league squad they played for during the lockout, joking about how rickety were the planes the team flew during the season. In fact, Lecavalier said all the Russian players would joke, "Oh, this is a Russian plane, be careful."
Salei was part of the Lokomotiv team that was wiped out in a plane crash on Wednesday. Lecavalier on Thursday, after his first skate at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, spoke about his experience traveling on Kazan's charter flights:
On his reaction to tragedy: It was a shock. Even this morning I was reading about it. The whole day yesterday I kind of felt weird inside. It was so sad to see. You think of their families. It’s the hockey community. It’s close to us. Most guys here know guys who were on the plane and know players who had friends on that plane. Hockey is a small world, and when you see something like that happen, it’s very sad.
On Russian planes: That was the thing when we were over there was the planes. We all talked about it. They’re older planes and that’s all we talked about, the players kind of jokingly. Five or six years later there you go, a plane goes down. They've got to make sure your safety, all that stuff, is up to par and up to the level they should be, and I hope they do that.
Describing the planes: Just old. Everything, I don’t know. I didn’t feel safe in the air. I was happy to come back and fly in America. I didn’t feel that the safety we talk about so much over here is the same over there. In the plane, though, it just looked old. It just didn’t look right. It seems that things are done 80 percent of the way or 90 percent. It’s not like here. It’s sad.
Was he surprised by the crash?: I’m not. I don’t know much about planes and what they look like inside. They might have been safe, the engines and stuff. But the way they looked inside, it didn’t look safe.
Any close calls?: Nothing, I never had problems over there with the planes. It’s just what guys talked about that made it a little scary because they know more than we do. Us, we go to Delta, we know it’s safe. Over there, that’s all they talked about. The first time we went on a charter, they’re like, “Oh, this is a Russian plane, be careful." Little comments like that.
The Russian players said that?: Yeah, the Russian players would say that because of what it looked like. Hopefully it was just an accident and they’ll make sure everything is up to par now and the high standard it should be.