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KHL season opener stunned by Yaroslavl tragedy

Published time: September 07, 2011 13:52
Edited time: September 07, 2011 22:30
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, April 2011 (RIA Novosti / Maksim Bogodvid)

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, April 2011 (RIA Novosti / Maksim Bogodvid)

The opening of the KHL’s fourth season has been marred after a passenger jet carrying members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team crashed near the Yaroslavl airport.

On the first day of the new KHL season Russian ice hockey fans were shocked by the news of the tragedy, which took the lives of one of the league’s favorites, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, upon being informed of the crash, instructed Transport Minister Igor Levitin to travel immediately to the scene to organize due efforts to identify the causes for the crash. Preliminary reports suggest the plane failed to attain the necessary altitude following a collision with a light post.

The three-time Russian Champions were heading to Minsk, where they were supposed to open another KHL season on September 8.

The first game of the season between last year’s finalists Salavat Yulaev and Atlant was interrupted during the second period.

Salavat Yulaev training staff reacts to the news about the tragedy (still video from the KHL season opener live coverage)
Salavat Yulaev training staff reacts to the news about the tragedy (still video from the KHL season opener live coverage)

In his address to the Ufa crowd, the KHL President Aleksandr Medvedev stated that all players and staff of the Yaroslavl team except one survivor, Russian Aleksandr Galimov, who is in a local hospital in grave condition, died in a plane crash near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia.

“We will do our best to keep the high-level hockey in Yaroslavl,” stressed Medvedev.

Following the adress, the sell-out crowd held a moment of silence. After that the two squads headed to the nearest church to honor the legacy of their departed friends.

Apart from the Russian players, the renowned team consisted of international hockey stars, including all-time Slovak legend Pavol Demitra, Czech stars Jan Marek, Karel Rachunek and Stanley Cup-winner Josef Vasicek , Robert Dietrich of Germany, Swedish goalkeeper Stefan Liv, Ukrainian Alexander Vyukhin, Karlis Skrastins of Latvia and legendary Belarusian defender Ruslan Salei. Earlier reports suggested Salei was not on board the plane, as he was supposed to join the team in Minsk, but the the Russian emergency ministry later confirmed his death.

The Yaroslaval team was coached by specialist Brad McCrimmon. The Canadian played in the NHL and most recently served as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings before taking the Yaroslavl job in May.

Thousands of people – fans and ordinary citizens – have flocked to the square near the Yaroslavl arena to honor the legacy of the team.