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One Year Later: Remembering Karlis Skrastins & Those Lost In The Lokomotiv Tragedy

#37 Karlis Skrastins tosses a t-shirt to the fans on fan appreciation night.
Karlis Skrastins

Click the photo above for a photo tribute to Karlis Skrastins.

On September 7, 2011, a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team crashed near the town of Yaroslavl, Russia. 44 of the 45 souls on board the aircraft lost their lives because of the disaster, including the entire Lokomotiv KHL hockey team and several players who had played extensively in the NHL.

One of those men was Karlis Skrastins, a gentle giant of a hockey player who was one of the most endearing personalities to ever walk through the doors of the Dallas Stars locker room. He was only with the team for two years but his impression on the fans and those with the team was everlasting. His loss was devastating to those that knew him and those that were only fans.

After the jump, my tribute to Karlis that was published last year -- as well as a chance to remember the 43 others who lost their lives in this tragedy.

Karlis Skrastins is one of those guys that everyone says "played the right way". He was a dedicated and hard working hockey player who once claimed the title of the NHL Ironman after appearing 487 straight games, a record for a defenseman. He was known not for his offensive prowess but for his ability as a shutdown and solid defenseman who excelled as one of the best in the NHL at blocking pucks.

He was also a husband to Zane and a father to Karolina and Laurena. He was a dedicated family man, working as an NHL player away from his home country of Latvia in order to support his family and had just recently made the decision to play in the KHL after eleven seasons as an NHL player, with stops in Nashville, Colorado, Florida and Dallas.

On Wednesday, along with at least 42 others, Karlis lost his life when the plane carrying the Lokomotiv hockey team crashed shortly after takeoff. The hockey world has been wracked with yet another tragedy, as not only Karlis was lost but Pavel Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Brad McCrimmon, Josef Vasicek and Jan Marek were also among those killed

There are no words to describe the feeling of despair and loss you feel when someone you love is taken away. Too many times in this world we have to find a way to cope with loss and everyone has their own way of dealing with the grief. Sometimes it doesn't matter if the person is close to you or not, you feel that grief deep inside your soul as if you had just lost your best friend. You feel incredible sadness at the thought of the families that are left behind and how suddenly their lives were taken away, gone in but an instant.

These hockey players and coaches played a sport they loved that brought joy to millions. In tough times like these we find ways to cope with our everyday struggles and many of us turn to sports to find joy that is absent in other aspects of our lives. We deal with jobs, finances, school and the stress that comes with them while finding solace in the joy and fun that sports can bring us.

People like Karlis Skrastins make sports fun. He wasn't the most talented player in the league but he was one of the hardest working men in the NHL and he proved it night in and night out. He sacrificed his body to block shots as a defenseman and was other for nearly every game for eleven seasons -- something rarely found these days. Where Skrastins really made his mark was not on the ice, but off of it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Karlis Skrastins last fall. Like many NHL players he was more than willing to stop and chat. I walked away amazed at how humble he was and how quick to smile he was while chatting with me, a genuinely nice guy whose enthusiasm for hockey was infectious. His teammates felt the same way and everyone will remember Karlis as a man who made an impact on their lives just from having known him, how his quiet intensity drove him every night on the ice and his work ethic drove him off it.

Today I found myself affected by the loss of Karlis Skrastins in a way I would not have guessed might have happened. He was no longer with the Dallas Stars and he only played for two seasons in Dallas, yet he will always be remembered as one of the better guys to have set foot in the Stars locker room. Everyone on this team acknowledges the impact he had on them as people and as players and he will be missed by so, so many.

I only had the pleasure of talking to Karlis Skrastins for just a few minutes and only watched him play for just two years, but the impression he had left upon me will last a lifetime.

Here is his finest moment as a Dallas Star:

Those that were lost:

Vitaly Anikeyenko 24 Ukraine[E][77] D
Mikhail Balandin 31 Russia D
Gennady Churilov 24 Russia C
Pavol Demitra[A] 36 Slovakia C
Robert Dietrich 25 Germany D
Alexander Galimov[78][79] 26 Russia LW
Marat Kalimulin 23 Russia D
Alexander Kalyanin 23 Russia RW
Andrei Kiryukhin 24 Russia RW
Nikita Klyukin 21 Russia C
Stefan Liv[B] 30 Sweden G
Jan Marek[C] 31 Czech Republic C
Sergei Ostapchuk 21 Belarus LW
Karel Rachůnek[C] 32 Czech Republic D
Ruslan Salei[80] 36 Belarus D
Maxim Shuvalov 18 Russia D
Kārlis Skrastiņš[81] 37 Latvia D
Pavel Snurnitsyn 19 Russia F
Daniil Sobchenko 20 Ukraine[E][77] C
Ivan Tkachenko 31 Russia LW
Pavel Trakhanov 33 Russia D
Yuri Urychev 20 Russia D
Josef Vašíček[D] 30 Czech Republic C
Alexander Vasyunov[82] 23 Russia LW
Alexander Vyukhin 38 Ukraine[E][77] G
Artem Yarchuk 21 Russia LW

Yuri Bakhvalov Physician/Massage Therapist
Aleksandr Belyaev Equipment Manager/Massage Therapist
Alexander Karpovtsev[A] 41 Russia Assistant Coach
Igor Korolev[C] 41 Russia/Canada Assistant Coach
Nikolai Krivonosov 31 Belarus Fitness Coach
Yevgeni Kunnov Massage Therapist
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov Russia Massage Therapist
Brad McCrimmon[B] 52 Canada Head Coach
Vladimir Piskunov 52 Russia Administrator
Yevgeni Sidorov Russia Coach-Analyst
Andrei Zimin Team Doctor

Nadezhda Maksumova Flight attendant
Vladimir Matyushin Flight engineer
Elena Sarmatova Flight attendant
Elena Shavina Flight attendant
Alexander Sizov[86] Avionic engineer
Andrei Solomentsev Captain[53]
Igor Zhivelov First Officer
Sergei Zhuravlev First Officer[53