BRANDON — Vinny Lecavalier said he "didn't feel safe" on charter flights he took while playing in Russia's premier league.
"The planes were just old," the Lightning captain, who played for Kazan during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, said Thursday. "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. (Planes) just looked old. It didn't look right."
Aircraft safety in Russia became a hot-button issue Wednesday, when the KHL's Lokomotiv team was virtually wiped out by a crash that killed 43 of 45 passengers. A cause has not been determined.
Among the dead was Ruslan Salei, Lecavalier's Kazan teammate and a Belarus native whom Lecavalier said was jokingly fatalistic about Russian aircraft.
Many Russian players made "little comments" about the air-worthiness of the planes, he said.
"It's just what guys talked about that made it a little scary," Lecavalier said at the Ice Sports Forum. "The first time on a charter, they're like, 'This is a Russian plane, be careful.' ''
Lecavalier said he had no close calls while he was with Kazan, but he still felt weird when he heard about the Lokomotiv tragedy, especially when he recalled Salei's warnings.
"Five or six years later, there you go, a plane goes down," Lecavalier said. "Hopefully, it was just an accident and they'll make sure everything is up to par and the high standard it should be."
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Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.