NEWARK, N.J. – NHL player Dainius Zubrus is coming to grips with the death of a Ukrainian coach who mentored him as a teen and the legal woes he was facing.
Ivan Pravilov, 49, was in custody in Philadelphia on child-molestation charges. He was found unresponsive in his cell early Friday morning, 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 New Jersey Devils. “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 ice hockey school in Ukraine from the 1980s until about 2007, when he came to the U.S. to run camps for standout players. Athletes from Ukraine and elsewhere typically enrolled for about a month, staying with host families.
On Jan. Pravilov 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.