There may not be a tighter knit group of fans anywhere in sports than in hockey.
It’s not just at the NHL level either. Fans from juniors, to the minors, to Sweden, to Russia are all as die-hard as they come. And while fans may hate each other over the course of a game, or even a season, at the end of the day there’s still a family-like feeling that comes with being a hockey fan.
That’s part of what made the Lokomotiv tragedy so painful, not just for the families and friends obviously, but for fans all over the world.
It’s been a year since the awful events that shook the Kontinental Hockey League and the hockey world. A plane crash claimed the lives of 44 members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, including several former NHL players and coaches. Names like Pavol Demitra, Brad McCrimmon, Ruslan Salei, and Igor Korolev all lost their lives in the crash.
How incredibly painful and tragic the crash was for all involved is impossible to overstate. And while we, as hockey fans, writers, and experts, do feel remorse and leave our thoughts with the families and close friends of the 44 that lost their lives on September 7th, 2011, we cannot truly appreciate how earth shattering it was.
Regardless of that fact, it was incredible to see the out-pour of support from all over the hockey world. Fans expressed their condolences in every medium possible. Ceremonies were held before games. Fundraisers received gigantic support from fans. It was almost as if it wasn’t just the players and staff that had connections to those lost. It was all of us.
A year later, it’s still painful to think about. And while it will still be a while for the pain to go away, the KHL season got underway this week, and made the most of every opportunity to honor that Lokomotiv club.
The KHL season opened up on Tuesday, with the Lokomotiv Cup. The opening tilt featured last year’s final two clubs, Dynamo Moscow and Avangard Omsk. Plans for the upcoming Lokomotiv memorial, were also unveiled. On Thursday, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl officially made its return to the ice.
Several former NHL players and coaches made their debuts with the club, which includes Viktor Kozlov, Sami Lepisto, and Curtis Sanford. Lepisto was the only one of the three to play with the team on Thursday, helping them to a 5-2 win. It may be nearly impossible to replace the original Lokomotiv, but they plan to honor them nonetheless.
It hasn’t been an easy road back for the club, nor has it been an easy road to this point for the family, friends, and former teammates of those lost in the tragedy. One year later, the tragedy still echoes throughout the hockey community, bringing us all together, and reminding us just how precious life can be.