A lot of terrific players died in yesterday’s horrible Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash. But the one that depressed me the most was Brad McCrimmon. A stay-at-home defenseman myself, I always admired practitioners of the art, and McCrimmon was one of the best. He didn’t get half the recognition of his near-contemporary Rod Langway, but I think he was as good or better, racking up >+40 seasons like clockwork in his prime, smart and very tough. If you appreciate the subtle skills of the defense-first defenseman, he was beautiful to watch, perfectly positioned and firing off quick first passes to ignite the transition.
I neglected to write about this at the time, but three players in this year’s Hall of Fame class were closely connected with McCrimmon. Two of his teammates from the only championship team I will ever root for (Gilmour overdue, Nieuwendyk frankly a little marginal) made me happy by getting the nod, and his permanently overshadowed teammate and sometime partner on Keenan’s excellent Flyer teams Mark Howe (whose induction was way overdue) was finally selected. McCrimmon wasn’t quite Hall of Fame caliber, but he helped his teams nearly as much. He was a rock.
Apparently a great guy too. R.I.P.