Tragedy. There is no other word to describe what occurred today.
Earlier this afternoon in Russia, it was just another standard team plane ride for the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL. They were on their way to Minsk to play against Dinamo Minsk for the season opener this Thursday. However, moments after takeoff, their team jet landed in a nearby riverbank, killing 43 people and critically injuring two others.
This tragedy was a shock to the world of hockey as many ex-NHL players – Karlis Skrastins, Pavol Demitra, Stefan Liv, and Alexander Vasyunov, to name a few – were lost. This is one of the worst plane crashes involving a sports team, sadly reminiscent of the Marshall Football team crash of 1970 that killed 75 people, including 37 athletes.
Initially, the cause of the crash was not evident. However, later on in the day, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry stated that the reason behind the Yak-42 plane crash was the plane’s inability to gain altitude which caused it to crash into the signal tower. Russia does, in fact, have a bad rep regarding traffic safety. Some experts have blamed primitive aircraft, weak government authority, deficient training for pilots and a frugal attitude as reasons for this negative label.
Even if some of these men were not involved in the NHL, many of them had ties with the league. Countless statements have been made mourning the crash, including one by Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk as ESPN.com reports. “The Dallas Stars family is shocked and saddened by the passing of Karlis Skrastins and so many other young lives in a plane crash in Russia today. Karlis was a wonderful father and husband, as well as a good friend. He will be greatly missed.”
The KHL is an international professional ice hockey league that was founded in 2008. The International Ice Hockey Federation has reported that this is the strongest hockey league in Europe. The league consists of 24 squads from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Slovakia, including 20 from Russia.
The attendance at Lokomotiv’s stadium reflected how loved these players were; 2,000 grieving fans showed up to pay their respects. Police watched as many songs were chanted by these fans.
Even though many discussions are centering around the effects of this devastating event on the league and what steps will be taken to recover, I find myself stepping back from this terrible tragedy and remembering something: as much as I love the world of sports, that’s all it is – sports. The KHL will struggle for quite a while to get back on its feet, but so much more consequential were the lives lost today – dearly loved sons, brothers, fathers, and friends. For the families of these men, the recovery will take much longer. My thoughts and prayers go out to them.
Ignite the Site!