It has been three years since the tragic loss of the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv hockey team and most of the flight crew when the teams’ Yak-42 plane crashed shortly after take-off. Though there were two initial survivors, player Alexander Galimov and flight engineer Alexander Sitzov, Galimov sadly passed away in hospital due to the injuries he sustained in the crash
There were several known players and legends in their respective countries lost in the disaster, leaving the hockey world with gut wrenching pain and sadness of the loss. The hockey world pulled together with emotional tributes pouring out to the team, its fans and the victims’ families. The summer of 2011 had been tough for hockey fans before that with the loss of Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. All lives lost too soon. Every year, the world wide hockey community comes together with tributes to those it lost in the summer of 2011. Every player and team member is remembered and their memories live on.
The Yaroslav air disaster is an incident that most hockey fans remember where they were and what they were doing. So here is my account of the day, 7th of September 2011:
I was at work and I remember it was a relatively quiet day, which was unusual. I was monitoring news feeds and I came across a news alert on one of the international news feeds and on Slava Malamud’s twitter feed that a plane carrying the Yaroslav Lokomotiv hockey team had crashed after take-off. I started to scour for more information and as more information came available, the bleaker the news. I remember that there was confusion whether Ruslan Salei was on board the plane, with some tweets and news outlets saying that he had been in touch with his family, or that he had traveled to Minsk ahead of his team.
When the news came through that most of the people on board the plane had perished, I just stopped. I went into a state of shock and disbelief. There were players on the plane I had watched play, met (Karlis Skrastins while he played for TPS in Finland) and whose hockey cards I had in my collections. When the televised images from Yaroslav came through with the fans in mourning, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom and I cried. I felt for the families of those who were lost and the fans of the team.
The rest of the day was a blur, watching and reading the reactions and the overwhelming support that fans of the sport and beyond showed their condolences to the victims and their families.
I remember that my team had a game the weekend after the disaster and rightly, as most games across the world, held a minute of silence in respect to those who the hockey community lost. I remember tweeting that the best way to remember those who perished was to play and enjoy every game you play, as those aboard the plane did. They made their childhood hobbies into a job and loved every minute of it.
Three years on and the pain of the loss – I can only imagine – is still intense for the families, but on the 7th of September, millions of players and fans world wide will spare their thoughts and condolences to the families of those that were lost.
We will remember them.