Former NHL star Brad McCrimmon is being mourned in his Saskatchewan hometown and in hockey circles from the WHL to the NHL.

McCrimmon, 52, was born in Dodsland and grew up in Plenty, Sask., a community of about 170 people, roughly 140 kilometres west of Saskatoon.

He was coaching hockey in Russia and was on board the plane that crashed Wednesday.

People in Plenty told CBC News on Wednesday they were shocked and saddened to hear the news.

"I was sickened to my stomach, to tell you the truth," Doug McLeod said. "Just a wave when one of my fellow workers came in and heard it on the news."

'A genuine person'

McLeod said McCrimmon often came home to the family farm during his days with the Calgary Flames and would devise his own training regime.

"He was dragging a backpack up and down the pasture hills, to be in shape for hockey," he recalled.

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Brad McCrimmon, seen in Detroit's training camp in 2010, won a Stanley Cup and a Canada Cup in his lengthy playing career. ((Dave Reginek/Getty Images))

McCrimmon was remembered as someone who always took time to talk to people when he was back in town and never forgot his roots.

"He never really forgot where he came from," Lyle Westman told CBC News Wednesday. "He was a genuine person."

McCrimmon was also someone that local youths looked up to and admired, adding it was exciting to have someone so accomplished come from such a small community.

"They're going to remember Brad for generations," McLeod added. "They'll just think about Brad all the time, and the family also."

Russian officials confirmed that a plane carrying a team in the KHL crashed on takeoff. Early reports said as many as 43 people were killed.

McCrimmon's early hockey career took him to Brandon, Man., where he played for the Brandon Wheat Kings.

His brother Kelly is the owner of the WHL team.

McCrimmon was also once the captain of the Calgary Flames and helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1989.

"They brought it back to Plenty," Westman remembered. "He had been gone from Plenty for 15 years by that time and he thought that it was important that his day with the Stanley Cup was spent in Plenty, Saskatchewan. Things like that are kind of what he's all about."

McCrimmon was also coach of the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

Atlanta Thrashers ties

As well, he was an assistant coach with the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, which recently moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets.

"Whenever I got frustrated, he was the guy that came to me and talked to me about, you know, keeping level-headed," said Jets forward Jim Slater, who had worked with McCrimmon in Atlanta.

"He's just one of those guys that came up to you and told you a story to make you feel better. He was really easy to talk to as a coach."

Prior to moving overseas, McCrimmon was with the Detroit Red Wings organization.

He is survived by a wife and two children.

Shane Hnidy, who recently retired from the NHL and is the Jets' new radio announcer, said McCrimmon was special.

"He brought an attitude and a passion to the game — and to life — each and every day," Hnidy said.

"We were very close with him and knew his family well, and you know, it's just a shock … it's terrible."