Bethann Salei, widow of former Ducks defenseman Ruslan Salei (pictured at left), issued a statement Friday through the Ducks. Her husband, 36, died Wednesday in the plane crash that virtually wiped out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team and killed 43 of 45 passengers on the chartered jet.
“On behalf of the Salei family, I want to express my sincere thanks to the entire hockey community, including all of Ruslan’s friends and fans, for the overwhelming love and support," she said. "While this is an extremely difficult time for us, the outpouring of affection our family has received has been comforting. As much as Ruslan enjoyed playing hockey, he loved the camaraderie he had with his teammates, the team staffs, and the fans that much more.
“Ruslan was the love of my life, and I’m extremely grateful to have our three beautiful children. He treasured his family life with us, and we miss him dearly.”
Salei and his wife continued to live in Orange County long after he left the Ducks, and he remained a popular figure among Ducks fans for his physical play—he’d as soon run over an opponent as go around one—and his genial personality. Some fans have left flowers and other remembrances of him outside Honda Center.
A Ducks spokesman said Salei’s funeral is expected to be private. The spokesman also said the club wants to honor Salei in some fashion next season but won't make any plans until the family is able to express its wishes.
Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei among 43 dead in Russian plane crash
Photo credit: NHL