Helene St. James | Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Red Wings mourned a longtime friend Friday, told of the passing of Sergei Tchekmarev immediately after a grueling loss on the ice.
Their 7-2 rout at the hands of the Florida Panthers was acknowledged as “terrible” by coach Jeff Blashill, who broke down in his post-game press conference as he revealed Tchekmarev’s death. Tchekmarev, 65, was not at the arena. Team personnel found out immediately after the game.
“He was an unreal man,” Blashill said. “He made it fun to be around the rink. I’ve know him for 10-plus years. He was here for 20-plus years. I just think it’s really important that we honor him.”
The team did not have much information immediately after the game, but a spokesman said Tchekmarev is survived by a wife and daughter.
“Tcheka,” as he was known to everyone, had been the team masseur since 1998. He always had a smile and a “how are you doing” – said with a heavy Russian accent – ready as a greeting.
“He was one of the best people I’ve ever been around,” Blashill said. “One of the kindest. Cared and had an unreal outlook on life. My heart goes out to his family. And certainly to some many people around here who loved him, including myself.”
Blashill was near tears and ended his press conference shortly afterwards.
“Guys, we were terrible,” he said. “We didn’t play good. I don’t have any words for it at all. With all due respect to everybody, that’s all I’m going to answer.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.