A Yak-42 D plane carrying 45 people crashed after takeoff from Yaroslavl airport on route to Minsk, Belarus. Inside the plane was the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, who were on their way to play first game of the KHL season. They never made it to their destination as they perished in one of the tragedies the sport of hockey has ever seen.
There was an out pouring of emotional support for those who were lost in that tragedy. The KHL held a public memorial for Lokomotiv so the fans could honor and say goodbye to the team they supported for many years. During the preseason, in arenas across the country, the NHL paid homage to those players and coaches who were lost on that September day.
Many wondered if Lokomotiv would be rebuilt and compete in the KHL ever again. In the days to follow after the crash, in a bold move by the KHL, they announced that Lokomotiv would be rebuilt.
During that time period, the league was considering two options. The first would have Lokomotiv play the 2011-12 KHL season with it youth team. The second would have a roster made up of one line from the junior team and the rest from replacement players from other KHL squads. More than 30 players voiced their willingness to play for the Lokomotiv club following the horrific tragedy.
From Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy, on the rebuilding of Lokomotiv:
But on Sept. 10, Lokomotiv President Yuri Yakovlev announced that the team would not field a KHL team that season. “Our main priority is to take care of the families and the loved ones of those who perished in the tragedy,” said Yakovlev. “Our other priority is to rebuild the team to the needed level.”
The “new” Lokomotiv team would play hockey last season in Russia’s Major Hockey League, which is the second highest league in Russia below the KHL. The team would play 22 games and lost in the second round of the playoffs. As the team prepares to return to the KHL, the club will keep their minor league affiliate as well.
Lokomotiv has rebuilt their team with players that have played in the National Hockey League and other professional leagues in Russia. They hired Tom Rowe, who served as a scout and assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, as the new head coach.
Lokomotiv was reborn yesterday by winning their opening game in Novosibirsk against Sibir. According to reports, the game was sold out and tickets were hard to come by. Emotions were running high as the team returned to the ice in the opposition’s arena. Sibir fans welcomed Lokomotiv back with chants of “Loko! Loko!” before the puck was even dropped.
The players who were lost during the tragedy were honored with a moment of silence and their images were project on the ice.
On this September 7, 2012 to commemorate the tragedy of a year ago, the KHL will not play any games. Instead, they will honor the players of Lokomotiv and staff with memorial events across the world; including raising the sweaters of the players who perished to the rafters of Arena-2000, Lokomotiv’s home.
The hockey world will never forget what happened and the memories of the players will live forever and never fade.