After a long summer of loss in the hockey world, on September 7, 2011, another tragedy hit. The plane carrying the Kontinental Hockey League team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, crashed en route to Belarus for their first game of the season. Only one person survived.
Friends, families and fans all over the world held memorials for the 44 people that passed away.
New Jersey Devils fans held a memorial in the Championship Plaza of Prudential Center to pay respects to the two former Devils, Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasyunov. The fans in attendance wrote messages on pucks, hats and signs in remembrance.
We celebrate the lives of these two men, as well as all of the victims, with a display on the main concourse near the south tower and across from the Dream Team bench. The signed pucks and hats, from fans, and photos surround a game worn Vasyunov Lokomotiv jersey.
In an effort to help the families of the victims, Ilya Kovalchuk set up a fundraiser. Those who sent $17 to the KHL Yaroslavl Victims’ Families Fund would receive a signed photograph of Kovalchuk. Park East Restaurant in Hazlet, NJ held an autograph session with Kovalchuk yesterday and the proceeds went to the Families Fund.
Hockey wives and girlfriends from around the world also banded together to create Love for Lokomotiv, a site where anyone can provide a donation or purchase one of two types of bracelets that commemorate those who lost their lives.
The hockey world will always remembers those who were on that plane that morning.
As an already tragic summer winds down following Labor Day weekend, most hockey fans were ready to turn the page on a summer of loss and focus on a new season ahead. Having lost Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak this past summer, the hockey world was shocked again. One of the Kontinental Hockey League’s premier teams, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, saw its entire team wipe out in moments as the team’s jet crashed early Wednesday morning. There have been 44 confirmed deaths (reportedly 45 dead), including ex-NHLers Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Red Wings draft pick Stefan Liv, Rangers draft pick Jan Marek, as well as the head coach of the team, and former NHL player Brad McCrimmon. Two former Devils were also lost: Karel Rachunek and youngster Alexander Vasyunov. Vasyunov, 23, played 18 games in the NHL last season for the Devils, posting five points, including his first and only NHL goal.
Lookomotiv Yaroslavl, like many KHL teams, was preparing for the beginning of a the 2011-2012 season, scheduled to begin this week. Their plane was headed to Minsk, Belarus (site of the team’s first game of the season) before mechanical problems reportedly started to disrupt the plane’s flight before eventually crashing. The crash occured just over a mile from the airport runway and the jet burst into flames. Alexander Galimov, one of the team’s players, suffered severe burns before reportedly dying in a coma hours later.
As far as the impact on the Devils is concerned, Karel Rachunek played 47 games on the Devils blue line during the 2007-08 season after a pair of stints with the New York Rangers and four year tenure in Ottawa. The youngster Vasyunov left North America this past summer to return to Russia, but indications through many reports is that Vasyunov enjoyed his time with the Devils and hoped to return to the Devils organization some day. Lou Lamoriello confirmed Vasyunov’s death this morning. Vasyunov had spent the past three seasons in the Devils farm system before heading back to play for his hometown KHL team in Yaroslavl.
This has been a summer of tragedy, there’s no doubt about that. Forty-five lives were lost today during this plane crash, and now a once prominent KHL franchise must completely start over.