Thousands of Latvians pay tribute to Karlis Skrastins

RIGA Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:57am EDT

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RIGA (Reuters) - Thousands of people streamed to an arena in the Latvian capital on Friday to pay tribute to Karlis Skrastins, one of the country's most famous ice hockey players, who died in a Russian plane crash last week along with the rest of his club team.

The 37-year-old was among 44 people who died when a plane carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl came down shortly after take-off on a flight to the Belarus capital of Minsk on September 7.

Skrastins, nicknamed the Iron Man, played in three Olympic Games.

He also played for several NHL sides, including the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.

Fans, many wearing the Latvian national ice hockey shirt, poured into the Riga Arena to lay flowers and light candles in front of his coffin.

The country's president and prime minister also attended.

Ice hockey is Latvia's most popular sport and Skrastins was one of the most popular players.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Mark Meadows)

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