International Ice Hockey Federation

Hockey's biggest tragedy

Hockey's biggest tragedy

Three years since airplane crash in Yaroslavl

Published 08.09.2014 10:57 GMT+2 | Author Marek Kratochvil
Hockey's biggest tragedy
A monument remembers the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players at Leontievskoye cemetery. Photo: Pavel Lysenkov
When you mention Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the current KHL team and players is not what pops into the minds of most people.

The majority will connect it with the players who died during the airline tragedy.

The 7th September will always be remembered as a dark day. The players and staff of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were preparing for their trip to the first game of the KHL season in Minsk, Belarus. But at around the first disturbing news was aired on the radio.

First, there were rumours about an aircraft failure near the Tunoshna airport a few kilometres from Yaroslavl, but later it became clear how serious the issue was.

The whole Lokomotiv team was on the plane that crashed, 45 members including coaches and staff. 43 of them died at the place of the crash. Rescue teams managed to find two people alive - player Alexander Galimov and aircraft technician Alexander Sizov.

Galimov passed away a few days after the crash in hospital, increasing the number of casualties to 44 – only Sizov survived.

Among the victims were not only Russians – many others lost their lives during the crash. Among the others were Czech world champions Karel Rachunek, Jan Marek and Josef Vasicek, Swedish Olympic gold medallist Stefan Liv, Slovak hero Pavol Demitra, Belarusian hero Ruslan Salei, German national team player Robert Dietrich, Latvian star Karlis Skrastins and Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon, who won Stanley Cup as a player back in 1989.

Immediately after the disaster, a wave of grief, emotions and solidarity hit not only the families of the victims, but also fans all around the world.

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In Prague, Czech Republic, the Old Town Square, usually a place of festivities and celebrations, became a place where people gathered in their mourning, lit candles and remembered the fallen. The Czech national team played the next season with a special patch shaped as heart with the numbers 4, 15 and 63 in memory of their three players lost.

In Yaroslavl, just outside the team's home rink, a memorial was built out of 37 hockey sticks, one for each player lost. Pictures of all of them are on display in the arena. Since 2011/2012, the KHL awards the "Lokomotiv Cup" to the winner of the season opener, which can be never played on 7 September.

After evaluating all circumstances, the Lokomotiv management decided not to build a new team for the season and withdrew from that KHL season, but they didn’t give up completely. One year later, a new team took to the ice at Arena 2000, and made it to the playoffs. Last year was even better – Yaroslavl made it all the way to the conference final, just as they did the season before the accident.


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