Three Years Ago Today: Remembering Flight 9633 And Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

A mourner adds a rose to a makeshift memorial at the scene of the crash of flight 9633. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A mourner adds a rose to a makeshift memorial at the scene of the crash of flight 9633. (Photo: Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, September 7th, 2011, Flight 9633 crashed during a takeoff from Tunoshna Airport near the Russian city of Yaroslavl. The plane was carrying the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional hockey team of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and sadly 43 of the 45 people on board perished at the scene. 26-year old Alexander Galimov survived the crash only to succumb to his injuries a few days later, leaving avionics flight engineer, Alexander Sizov as the only survivor of this tragic incident. It was and is one of the darkest and saddest days in hockey history.

Of the 44 confirmed fatalities from the crash, it included all but one player of Yaroslavl’s roster players at the time as well as former NHLers Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Karel Rachunek, Karlis Skarastins, Josef Vasicek, and Alexander Vasyunov along with their head coach Brad McCrimmon.

I’d ask everyone today to take a moment to remember the lives that were lost that day and the friends and family members who had loved ones taken from them in a matter of moments as the ripples from the sudden loss of life are still being felt overseas and in the NHL today.

It seemed and still feels as though anyone involved in hockey had a connection, personal or otherwise, to someone on Flight 9633 and because of it, the victims memories have lived on and continue to live on.

Just last month, a group of past and present NHL’ers that included Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara among others, were touring Slovakia and playing charity games to help raise money for the families of the victims and it was all done in the name of a fallen countrymen, Pavol Demitra, one of the former NHL players who died in the crash.

Also, Alex Ovechkin, who played with Galimov during the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championships, was photographed last season with a patch that reads, “In Memory of Lokomotiv”, stitched into his shoulder pads.

Ovechkin keeps the memory of Lokomotiv with him at all times when on the ice. (Photo: russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

Ovechkin keeps the memory of Lokomotiv with him at all times when on the ice. (Photo: russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

These are just a couple examples from thousands that show the effects such a loss can have on such a tight knit community.

At the time of the crash and even today, I myself find it hard to fully comprehend the loss of life that occurred that day because unlike everyone else, I didn’t have much of a connection to anyone on board. It’s still unfathomable to me that an entire hockey team can be gone in the blink of an eye, but just seeing what some people and players have done since that dark day can make even the most cynical person tear up a bit.

As horrific as that crash was and as hard as the days were that followed for all those it involved, it showed me and continues to show me everyday just how quickly and how strongly the hockey community can come together to help those in need.

It also showed me and the world something we already knew, no one fights as hard or as long as hockey players, especially when they’re fighting to keep the memory of their fallen brothers alive.

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