In This Corner (Column): Russian team rebuilding
Three months and eight days ago, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League took off in the team’s charter plane on its way to Minsk, Belarus, to play in the first game of the season.
But minutes after the plane left the ground, the hockey world was faced with one of its most devastating tragedies to date.
The charter plane crashed, taking the entire team, its coaching staff, and the flight’s crew members down with it.
Forty-three people were killed in the crash, and only two people made it out of the plane alive: the flight engineer and Alexander Galimov, a 26-year-old right-winger.
Galimov died in the hospital five days after the crash because of burns that covered 90 percent of his body.
Before the season started, Lokomotiv was the favored team to win the KHL title.
But since the crash, a new hope has been brought back to Lokomotiv.
Monday night, a new Lokomotiv team played its first game of the season, at home, against Neftyanik Almetyevsk.
While they are not playing in the KHL this season, Lokomotiv has decided to join the Major League, a second-tier league that is similar to the American Hockey League in North America, for the remainder of the season.
The team is composed of youth players from Lokomotiv and players loaned from other hockey clubs.
Because of the late addition to the league, the Western conference’s final standings will be determined by win percentage, since Lokomotiv will only be able to play 22 of the 53 scheduled games.
To see the hockey tradition carry on in Lokomotiv after such a tragedy is great.
It’s good for Lokomotiv, it’s good for the KHL and Major League. And it’s good for the sport of hockey.
After the crash, the hockey community came together from all parts of the world.
A few of the players in the crash were former NHL-ers, including the team’s Head Coach, Brad McCrimmon.
Immediately after the crash, players from teams all over Russia were volunteering to be loaned out for the season, just so that the memory of the team could survive.
Before the opening faceoff of what’s left of the 2011-2012 season, Lokomotiv projected “a video tribute to their perished predecessors onto the ice before the game and included the slogans ‘We will remember’ and ‘We will triumph,’” according to the Russian International New Agency.
After a moment of silence, the game began.
On its opening night, the new Lokomotiv Yaroslavl beat Neftyanik Almetyevsk 5-1.