Woke up this morning to a breaking news report about a charter plane crash that killed at least 43 people — including nearly all of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Lokomotiv team many of whom were popular NHL players.
The horrific event added to an off-season of tragedy for the National Hockey League. Three players have died suddenly in the last four months. Recently retired enforcer Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto hotel last week. Winnipeg Jets center Rick Rypien, who battled depression, was found dead at his Alberta home last month. Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died in May from a lethal combination of alcohol and painkillers.
Credit Image: © Jiang Kehong/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was a leading force in Russian hockey and came third in the KHL last year. Hours before the crash, a preview of the upcoming season gave the team an encouraging outlook.
The KHL opened play on Wednesday with defending champion Salavat Yulayev Ufa hosting Atlant Mytishi. The game was underway when the crash occurred and was abandoned after the announcement.
News of the crash quickly ripped through the global hockey community. Several players learned of the crash on Twitter, where they posted their reactions.
One of the confirmed dead is the team's coach, Canadian Brad McCrimmon, who took over in May. He was most recently an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings, and played 18 years in the NHL for Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix.
Pavol Demitra, a former Kings forward and a three-time NHL All-Star, was also killed, his agent told the Toronto Globe and Mail. Other players on the roster with NHL affiliations include Karlis Skastins and Detroit Red Wings prospect Stefan Liv.
This story is incredibly sad and it seems like every team's worst nightmare. It is not unprecedented however and brings to mind several other similar tragedies - horrendous plane accidents that have decimated entire sports teams.
Fifty years ago, a Sabena 707 plunged into a field near Brussels killing 18 U.S. figure skaters — the elite of a nation's whole sport wiped out in an instant, along with coaches and officials.
Whole college teams have also been lost to crashes: Thirty-seven football players on the Marshall University football team perished in 1970, The Evansville basketball team died in a 1977 aviation accident.
Almost all of Zambia's national soccer team was killed in 1993. Fourteen members of the U.S. amateur boxing squad were gone when their plane went down in Poland in 1980.
Most famous of all, if not for the crash, but for the ensuing ordeal, is the tale of the survivors of the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane plowed into the Andes in 1972 — memorialized in the book Alive.
Still, it's not possible to be anesthesized by these devastating stories and news of this latest tragedy leaves a giant wake of shock and sadness. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family members as well as friends and colleagues of the players.
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