Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

In what is arguably the darkest hour of the darkest summer our sport has ever seen, I see once again why I am so proud and humble to be a part of not only Britain’s hockey family but the world’s hockey family as well.

Off the back of the tragic deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and (particularly for British fans) Wade Belak, we could be forgiven for feeling very sorry for ourselves as a set of fans.  People in some quarters have earned that right, certainly the people of Yaroslavl have.

Yaroslavl, a city around the size of Glasgow were proud of their hockey team.  It had changed name several times since it came into being but the three time Russian champions reverted back to the name in 2000.  The team is owned by Russian Railways.

Since the KHL came into being in 2008/09, Lokomotiv had at least made the Western Conference finals in the KHL. In fact in they made the first ever KHL finals series, eventually losing in 7 games to Ak Bars Kazan.  Last season they made it back to the conference finals, losing in 6 games.

And now, here we are.  The reaction could have gone one of a few ways but, in what I feel is the true hockey reaction to disaster, the sport has picked up and is moving forward.

The KHL, having postponed all games till next week, are putting plans in place to announce after Saturday’s memorial service at the Arena 2000 in Yaroslavl. One of the early reports is that all the teams have agreed to a kind of dispersal draft. The other teams in the league will reportedly make 2 or 3 players available to Lokomotiv so they have a competitive team for the season.  Other clubs in Russia have offered financial assistance and help in a variety of ways.

We can’t ignore the heartbreaking disaster that this is; fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, friends, team-mates, heroes of a city of hockey fans, all gone in an instant. We’re all at a loss and rightly so.

However, like the KHL we need to take the hockey approach to this.  We must get up off the floor and keep going.  Answers must be found as to why this happened and measures must be put in place to ensure the safety of teams flying across Russia but there is something that we can all do;

We can all keep on playing, watching, helping out with and most importantly loving the sport of ice hockey.

All of these souls we lost the other day loved this sport. Brad McCrimmon had moved half way around the world to be a better coach and one day be an NHL head coach because he loved this sport. 21 year old Artem Yarchuk put in the hours of practice and went on loan to lower division sides to earn his stripes and make the roster of his hometown team because he loved this sport.  Arguably the greatest Slovakian hockey player of all time Pavel Demitra left the NHL for Yaroslavl to keep playing because he loved this sport.

On Saturday, Basingstoke Bison hockey returns for another season and we will no doubt find our way to commemorate what happened, be it a minute of silence or applause.  The best tribute we can give the people we lost is to miss them, remember them, keep their memories alive but ultimately we must keep going.

It will take time for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to rebuild, it could take years but they will keep going.  Like the trains that gave the club its name, they stop and but they will start again.  As a hockey community in Russia and worldwide, we will band together and this club will rise again.

On the Railwaymen!

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