Players, coaches and other members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team were headed to Belarus for a game against Dinamo Minsk on September 7, 2011. The team was to play the opening game of their 2011-12 season, but the game would never take place.
The Lokomotiv team was to travel to Minsk on a Jak-42 aircraft. After the players entered the plane, the crew prepared for departure. At first, everything seemed to be in perfect order. From the cockpit recording, you can hear the pilots joking and performing common tasks before takeoff. The takeoff would go horribly wrong. By the end of the runway, eight members of the crew and 35 members of the hockey team would perish.
Among the dead were team captain Karel Rachůnek, together with other Czech representatives Jan Marek and Josef Vašíček. Slovak hockey legend Pavol Demitra also died. Defenders Karlis Skrastins from Latvia and Ruslan Salej from Belarus died as well. Both were captains and icons of their national teams, who moved to Yaroslavl after years in the NHL shortly before the season.
The same was true for Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon. It was his first time in the role of head coach for a professional hockey team. He had hoped that coaching the Russian club would help him land an NHL head coaching position in the future
There were only two initial survivors – Russian hockey player Alexander Galimov and flight technician Alexander Sizov. However, the former suffered very serious injuries and burns. Although he managed to fight for his life for some time, in the end he also succumbed to his injuries, passing away on September 12, five days after the disaster.
Alexander Sizov became the only survivor. He was able to recover from his injuries, although he had to undergo several surgeries due to burns. He made it known that shortly after takeoff, he sensed a catastrophe approaching.
According to Sizov, he and other passengers felt nervous when the takeoff maneuver took too long. After a while, he realized that they had already passed the end of the runway. “We then disengaged from the field, but it was clear to me that the plane was falling and crashing to the ground at any moment,” he described.
Lokomotiv did not play in the KHL that season, but played several matches in a lower competition. The staff consisted of juniors and players left to Yaroslavl by other KHL clubs.
Today, exactly 10 years after the terrible incident, Lokomotiv will return to the ice to begin their 2021-22 KHL season. They will host Dinamo Minsk. This was done at the request of the club.
By Jon Sorensen