Today, Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 will go down as the worst day in the history of the great sport of hockey. Seconds after takeoff, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv’s team plane lost power and crashed near the Volga River in Yaroslavl, Russia. Earlier reports stated that there were at least 2 survivors, a flight crew member, and 26 year-old forward Alexander Galimov. As of 1:40 PM Eastern Time, it is being reported that Alexander Galimov has succumbed to his injuries. There has been no further word on the status of the flight crew member. Also on-board the aircraft and confirmed dead were former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Brad McCrimmon, Alexander Karpovtsev, Igor Korolev, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek, Karlis Skrastins, and Josef Vasicek.
One fact cannot be overlooked in this tragedy. The team plane was a Soviet-era Yak-42, which was by all accounts, not up to current standards. The Russian government had previously announced that all Soviet-era aircraft would be forced out of service by the end of 2012. One would think that a tragedy of this magnitude would hasten the retirement process. With that said, I will let the investigation take place before casting judgement, and that isn’t the point behind this post.
This summer has been terrible for the entire hockey community. On a global scale, hockey is a relatively small community. I never had a chance to play with any of the players mentioned, but I do have memories of watching most of them play. I can remember Pavol Demitra breaking my heart in the 2002 playoffs when his Blues eliminated my Blackhawks in 5 games, largely due to his goal scoring. I can remember Igor Korolev skating as a member of the Blackhawks in the early 90’s, and going on to have a good career in Toronto and St. Louis after that. I can remember Alex Karpovtsev being the best shot-blocking defenseman in the game as a member of the Canadiens and Blackhawks. I remember Ruslan Salei kicking his alcohol problem and coming back to resurrect his career. I can remember Brad McCrimmon playing for a very long time in the NHL, and even as an associate coach in Detroit just last season. The list goes on. Even though I may not have played with these guys or knew them on a personal level, this touches me just the same.
Take a moment to look at the names of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team roster. Look at each name…they’re gone, but won’t be forgotten. Rest in Peace.
Head Coach: Brad McCrimmon
Associate Coach: Igor Korolev
Associate Coach: Alexander Karpovtsev