NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Devils forward Dainius Zubrus issued a statement Saturday following the suspected suicide of a Ukrainian coach who mentored Zubrus as a teen.
Ivan Pravilov, 49, while in custody in Philadelphia on child-molestation charges, was found unresponsive in his cell at 3 a.m. Friday, according to spokesman Darrin Howard of the city’s Federal Detention Center.
“Obviously, this is a very difficult time. Ivan Pravilov played an important role in my life,” Zubrus said in the statement released by the team during the third period of New Jersey’s game against the Florida Panthers. “Unfortunately, I have come to learn that in actuality, he may have been very different than the person I thought he was.”
Pravilov ran an elite hockey school in Ukraine from the 1980s until about 2007, when he came to the U.S. to run camps for standout players from the U.S. and abroad. Players from Ukraine and elsewhere typically enrolled for about a month, staying with host families.
On Jan. 3, he allegedly brought two 14-year-old Ukrainian boys to his Philadelphia apartment from a family home in Wilmington, Del., and fondled one of them during the night.
Zubrus has said Pravilov never abused him.
“Since learning of the terrible accusations against my former coach, all my thoughts and concerns have been for the children,” Zubrus said. “I have reached out to the children, and assured them that I am, and will continue to be, there for them.”
A first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1996, Zubrus, 33, has also played for the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres. He was coached by Pravilov for six years.
Pravilov was facing six to eight years in prison if convicted of taking a minor over state lines for sexual purposes.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.