One year ago today, the unthinkable happened.
On Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 16:05 Moscow Time, a YAK-42 carrying the 37 players and staff of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv KHL hockey team struck a beacon tower shortly after liftoff. Upon striking the tower, the plane sputtered a few hundred meters before crashing and bursting into flames on the banks of the Tunosha River. The plane was departing the Yaroslav airport on its way to Minsk, Belarus for the commencement of the KHL season.
Only one member of the flight crew survived.
It was an incident that shocked the league. It shocked the nation. And it shocked international hockey fans to the core.
Today, we take a moment to honor the lives of those who were lost in the accident.
Soon after the event, Lokomotiv was in an unfamiliar situation, unsure if they would compete during the 2011-12 season. They were inundated by offers from opposing clubs and players, willing loan their rites to Lokomotiv should they choose to participate in regular season play. In the end, it was decided the best tact would be to honour those who perished by forgoing their KHL season.
In August 2012, the Russian Hockey Federation along with Hockey Canada collaborated on the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the '72 Summit Series, creating the Canada Russia Challenge which featured prominent junior hockey players from both nations.
Russia was on board, provided Yaroslavl would host Russia's home games.
Here began the healing process.
For families and friends of the deceased, nothing truly heals the emotions of losing a loved one other than time. For fans, the love and passion for sport can often be a release where people can unite in grief and mourning and share in the healing process that comes thereafter.
Step two of said process took place yesterday, when fans packed the Arena 2000 in Yaroslavl to witness the rebirth of their beloved Lokomotiv squad.
They defeated Sibir Novosibirsk by a final score of 5-2 for their first home win in over a year.
There are some notable names on this years Lokomotiv roster. Former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Mark Flood signed with the team this summer, as did notable NHLers Sami Lepisto, Curtis Sanford and Nicklas Hagman. Viktor Kozlov has played in Ufa the past three seasons since leaving the NHL and he too has signed with Lokomotiv.
As time continues to heal the wounds which marked us one year ago, we still must take pause -- at least for a moment -- to remember one of the greatest hockey tragedies known to mankind.
Here is a list of those we mourn.
Forever in our hearts.
Vitaly Anikeyenko - 24 - Defenseman
Mikahil Baladin - 31 - Defenseman
Gennady Churilov - 24- Centre
Pavol Demitra - 36 - Centre
Robert Dietrich - 25 - Defenseman
Alexander Galimov - 26 - Left Wing
Marat Kalimulin - 23 - Defenseman
Alexander Kalyanin - 23 - Right Wing
Andrei Kiryukhin - 24 - Right Wing
Nikita Klyukin - 21 - Centre
Stefan Liv - 30 - Goaltender
Jan Marek - 31 - Centre
Sergei Ostapchuk - 21 - Left Wing
Karel Rachunek - 32- Defenseman
Ruslan Salei - 36 - Defenseman
Maxim Shuvalov - 18 - Defenseman
Karlis Skrastins - 37 - Defenseman
Pavel Snurnitsyn - 19 - Forward
Danill Sobchenko - 20 - Centre
Ivan Tkachenko - 31 - Left Wing
Pavel Trakhanov - 33 - Defenseman
Yuri Urychev - 20 - Russia
Josef Vasicek - 30 - Centre
Alexander Vasyunov - 23 - Left Wing
Alexander Vyukhin - 38 - Goaltender
Artem Yarchuk - 21 - Left Wing
Brad McCrimmon - Head Coach
Alexander Karpovtsev - Assistant Coach
Igor Korolev - Assistant Coach
Yuri Bakhvalov - Physician
Aleksandr Belyaev - Equipment Manager
Nikolai Krivonosov - Fitness Coach
Yevgeni Kunnov - Massage Therapist
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov - Massage Therapist
Vladimir Piskunov - Administrator
Yevgeni Sidorov - Coach/Analyst
Andrei Zimin - Team Doctor