This week marks the unofficial end of summer. Labor Day has passed, the Guidos have left Seaside, and the school buses are waking me up promptly at 6:18 every morning. Parents all over the US are overjoyed to see their kids hop on the big yellow blimps on wheels and kiss this summer goodbye. However, they are not the only ones happy to see this season end. The hockey community faced quite a few tragedies this off season. Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien battled depression and ultimately lost their fights with their demons and left behind grieving families . Wade Belak left behind a wife and kids literally hours after tweeting about his excitement to start a new project on the heels of his retirement. The loss of these men broke the hearts of fans, teammates, and the hockey community and just when we thought we couldn’t handle any more strife… tragedy struck.
I was woken up Wednesday morning by a text about the plane crash in Russia. As Time.com put it:
a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team, which had won the national championship thrice, clipped an antennae tower during take-off and crashed on the embankment of a nearby river. Practically the entire team was wiped out, including 36 players, coaches and staff, some of whom perished in what witnesses described as a column of fire that rose nine stories into the air. Among the bodies pulled from the river, where part of the fuselage fell, were eight crew members. Two survivors — a player and a member of the flight crew — were rushed to the hospital in critical condition, their bodies covered in burns. In all, 43 people were killed.
The hopes of a hockey community rely upon Alexander Galimov, the sole player who survived the crash. He is still listed in critical condition with burns on 90% of his body. Although only a handful of these players ever played for the NHL, US/Canadian hockey fans are hit hard for the simple fact that it makes them think, “What if this was my team?”
I am fortunate enough to support a team whose fan base is one of the most loyal (south of the Great White North). Some may argue they are the worst fans in the league with their prejudices, but no one will say they aren’t spirited. Housed in the City of Brotherly Love, Flyers fans view their team as a brotherhood. I cried when Mike Richards was traded. I was mad that Scottie Upshall was traded for Dan Carcillo and this past summer, I was mad Carbomb was picked up by Chicago. When a player puts on that orange and black sweater, I adopt him as a member of my family. This is the family I watch 2-3 times a week. Cheer for when they score goals, curse at when they are less than stellar, and thank endlessly for giving everything they have for the game we love. That being said…
Fans of hockey are having a tough time dealing with the losses of this off season. As a show of support, each team in the KHL is donating their best players to help rebuild the Locomotiv team. Although this is a kind gesture, fans in Yaroslavl might not be ready for a new team. Players across the NHL are still struggling with the loss of their friends. Although this may be one of the worst offseasons in hockey’s history, I like to think it has caused fans and players alike to unite in grieving and truly appreciating what their fallen brethren have left behind. In the off season we are all just in love with a game. Although that will all change on October 6th, it’s nice to know the community can come together in times of need.