Remembering the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Plane Crash Victims Five Years Later

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Photo: The Hockey Writers

Five years ago today, the hockey world was turned upside down when the plane of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the entire team. NoVa Caps is remembering the victims and the effect it had on the hockey world. 

On its way to a game in Minsk, Belarus, the plane of the Kontinental Hockey League’s (KHL)  Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after taking off. It happened 1.2 miles from the nearest airport, hit a tower, caught fire, and then crashed.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, lays flowers during a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Russian plane crash in the Arena in Yaroslavl, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow in Russia, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. The chartered Yak-42 jet crashed Wednesday into the banks of the Volga River moments after takeoff from an airport near Yaroslavl. The crash killed 43 people, including 36 players, coaches and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team, many of whom were European national team and former NHL players. It was one of the worst aviation disasters ever in sports, shocking Russia and the world of hockey. The team had been heading to Minsk, Belarus to play its opening game of the Kontinental Hockey League season. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool)
AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool

The crash claimed the lives of the entire team (except for forward Maxim Zyuzyakin, who was not on the flight at the time), coaching staff (except goalie coach Jorma Valtonen, also not on the flight), as well as four players from the Minor Hockey League (MHL).

Amongst the players killed in the crash were former NHLers Pavol Demitra, who played in 847 NHL regular season games and recording 768 points (304 goals, 464 assists), Ruslan Salei (a veteran of over 900 NHL games and more than 200 points), and Karlis Skrastins. Assistant coaches Brad McCrimmon and Igor Korolev were also ex-NHL players.

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CBC Sports

While the crash occurred on the other side of the world, it had a huge impact on the NHL; particularly its Russian players. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (as well as all other NHL players) wore a Lokomotiv Yaroslavl patch in memory of his countrymen. The NHL took a moment of silence in the games played following the tragedy. Former NHL players also expressed their sympathies in the hours following the crash. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl had to withdraw from competition for the season and since then, the team has rebuilt the roster and coaching staff.

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / RUSSIA'S EMERGENCY MINISTRY " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS A handout photo provided on September 7, 2011 by Russia's Emergency Ministry shows the wreckage of a Yak-42 passenger jet hull No 42434 that crashed on takeoff near Yaroslavl's city airport, some 300 kilometres (185 miles) northeast of Moscow, killing 44 people. Five foreign hockey players, including former Swedish Olympic champion Stefan Liv were among 44 people killed when the jet carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team crashed near the site of an annual forum attended by President Dmitry Medvedev. AFP PHOTO / RUSSIA'S EMERGENCY MINISTRY (Photo credit should read HO/AFP/Getty Images) [PNG Merlin Archive]
Photo HO/AFP/Getty Images

While it will always be a day that hockey fans will try to forget for obvious reasons, the memories of its unfortunate victims will forever be remembered by those who knew them best. NoVa Caps is proud to honor the memory of the players and coaches who were taken too soon.

Written in memory of the victims of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash on September 7, 2011.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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