In a summer that has been filled with heartbreak for the hockey world, another tragedy struck the tight-knit community today in Russia.
The plane carrying the KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff and claimed the lives of 43 of the 45 people on board. Statements released by the team indicated that the entire roster, plus members from the youth team. As IIHF President Rene Fasel explained, “Today is the darkest day in the history of our sport.”
Among those on-board are ex-NHLers, Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek, Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Josef Vasicek. In addition, goaltender Stefan Liv, head coach Brad McCrimmon and assistants Alexander Karpotsev and Igor Korolev also have ties to the NHL. Of course, each and every life that was lost in this horrific accident is mourned equally, the fact that names so familiar to so many fans are involved makes the issue hit very close to home.
One thing I will never forget about my time in Vancouver was the way Pavol Demitra reacted after Slovakia’s two most significant losses. The reaction of tremendous disappointment was eveident as he left the arena after narrowly missing on a pivotal scoring chance against Canada. Then again after being dispatched by Finland in the Bronze medal game. As a player who I was only partially familiar with, thanks to his scoring prowess, I found a new respect for Demitra after witnessing those moments. In fact, I found a level of respect for all European hockey players after seeing thier passion in representing their countries over the two-week tournament.
My hope is that Yaroslavl rebuilds and finds the talent to create a team that is second to none. I hope they turn around and win a KHL championship in the very near future. I hope that this team is able to honor the loss of their teammates and family members this year and beyond.
This loss will leave a gaping hole in the worldwide hockey community, of course it will pale in comparison to the one left with the families of these players. All of the heartfelt thoughts and prayers sent out today makes one realize how small the world of hockey really is. I can only hope the NHL will find the right way to honor this team and these special players this season. In addition to a moment of silence on opening night, some sort of sticker or patch would go a long way in showing respect for the tragic loss that each and every person tied to hockey suffered today.