Thursday, September 08, 2011

RIP, LOKOMOTIV


By now everyone has heard about the tragedy yesterday involving the plane crash that wiped out all but one person on the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team in Russia's KHL.

The tragedy, so many thousands of miles from where I am, has hit particularly close to home in Saskatchewan because the Lokomotiv team's coach, Brad McCrimmon, used to be head coach of the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. Given the coverage on TV we got here locally, you would have thought it was the Blades' plane that had gone down. That's how close to home this story has hit.

This Russian hockey tragedy was the number one story here in Canada yesterday, mainly because so many of the people on that flight had connections to North American hockey and especially to the NHL.

I remember that when I was at the Score TV network in Toronto I used to shotlist tapes of highlight footage of Pavol Demitra when he was with the St. Louis Blues. I particularly remember how play-by-play announcer Ken Wilson used to go especially nuts whenever Demitra would score a goal. "Pavol Demitraaaa!!!"   

This is just another of the tragedies the NHL has suffered this summer, along with the deaths of NHL enforcers Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. But as tragic as this latest event is from the NHL's perspective, let's face facts -- it is a far worse day for the KHL. They've postponed the start of the season now because of the tragedy. As for Lokomotiv, they now plan to field a team with replacement players. I guess that gives new meaning to the words "the show must go on." 

Good grief, I cannot image what the fans of that franchise must be going through right now. I cannot imagine any of them caring one bit about the upcoming hockey season.

Yet this isn't the first time such a tragedy has happened, as you can tell by this montage compiled by CNN Sports Illustrated. Looking at some of the tragedies over the years, particularly the ones involving these soccer franchises like Torino AC, and Manchester United, you have to wonder how the heck North American major-league franchises have managed to spare themselves from this sort of disaster given all the flying these teams do around this continent. We've been really lucky on this side of the Atlantic that way.

May something like this never happen to any major-league franchise here -- or for that matter, never again for any team, period.

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