What's Buzzing:

Puck Daddy

How KHL’s Lokomotiv was reborn, one year after plane crash tragedy

Dmitry Chesnokov
Puck Daddy

View photo


Getty Images

One year ago today, hockey fans around the world were shocked and touched by a tragedy.

At 4:05 p.m. local time, a Yak-42D plane carrying 45 people crashed at takeoff at Yaroslavl airport. The entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team was killed and 43 people, in total, perished. One player, Alexander Galimov, had survived the crash, but suffered burns on 90 percent of his body. He would succumb to his injuries five days later at a local hospital.

The day after, the KHL announced that Lokomotiv would be rebuilt.

[Related: Former airline executive charged in Lokomotiv plane crash tragedy]

A well-known Russian coach, Petr Vorobiev, who was coaching Lokomotiv's junior team, was named the head coach of the rebuilding squad. At the time, the League was considering two options for the future of the club: One would have Lokomotiv play the 2011-2012 KHL season with its youth team; the other would have a roster made up of one line from the junior team and the rest from replacement players from other KHL squads. More than 30 players voiced their willingness to play for Lokomotiv following the tragedy.

But on Sept. 10, Lokomotiv President Yuri Yakovlev announced that the team would not field a KHL team that season. "Our main priority is to take care of the families and the loved ones of those who perished in the tragedy," said Yakovlev. "Our other priority is to rebuild the team to the needed level."

Three months later, on Dec. 12, the "new" Lokomotiv played its first game since the tragedy. Lokomotiv had joined Russia's Major Hockey League — which is the second highest hockey league in Russia after the KHL — and their first game saw a 5-1 win over Neftyanik.

Last season, Lokomotiv played 22 games and made the playoffs in the Major Hockey League, losing in the second round. As they return to the highest level of professional hockey in Russia, the franchise will keep a team in the minor league as well.

[Also: CBA silence is deafening as NHL, NHLPA risk an unnecessary lockout]

In order to be competitive at the KHL level, Lokomotiv needed to rebuild their senior team. In October, Egor Yakovlev, a 20-year old defenseman, became the first player signed by Lokomotiv since the crash.

This summer, the team was very active on the free agent market. Players with NHL experience such as Curtis Sanford, Vitaly Vishnevsky, Victor Kozlov, Sami Lepisto, Niklas Hagman and Staffan Kronwall all signed on. Tom Rowe, who served as a scout and assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes, was hired as the the new head coach.

On Thursday, one day before the first anniversary of the tragedy, Lokomotiv was reborn, winning their opening game in Novosibirsk against Sibir. The game was sold out and it tickets were impossible to come by, even from scalpers. Emotions surrounding their return were high, even in an opposing arena. Sibir fans welcomed Lokomotiv back with chants of "Loko! Loko!" before the puck was even dropped.

Before the game, a minute of silence took place, during which pictures of those perished in the crash were projected on the ice. Lokomotiv were victorious 5-2.

[More: Maple Leafs rank last in survey of 122 pro sports teams]

The date of Sept. 7, 2011 will forever be remembered in the hockey world. There will never be any hockey played in the KHL on this day. A number of memorial services and other events are scheduled in Yaroslavl, and at 7 p.m. local time, sweaters of the players who lost their lives a year ago will be raised to the rafters of Arena-2000, Lokomotiv's home.

They are gone, but they will never be forgotten.

Vitaly Anikeyenko
Mikhail Balandin
Gennady Churilov
Pavol Demitra
Robert Dietrich
Alexander Galimov
Marat Kalimulin
Alexander Kalyanin
Andrei Kiryukhin
Nikita Klyukin
Stefan Liv
Jan Marek
Sergei Ostapchuk
Karel Rachunek
Ruslan Salei
Maxim Shuvalov
Karlis Skrastinš
Pavel Snurnitsyn
Daniil Sobchenko
Ivan Tkachenko
Pavel Trakhanov
Yuri Urychev
Josef Vašícek
Alexander Vasyunov
Alexander Vyukhin
Artem Yarchuk

Yuri Bakhvalov
Aleksandr Belyaev
Alexander Karpovtsev
Igor Korolev
Nikolai Krivonosov
Yevgeni Kunnov
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov
Brad McCrimmon
Vladimir Piskunov
Yevgeni Sidorov
Andrei Zimin

Plus seven members of the crew.

Alexander Sizov, a crew member, was the sole survivor.

View Comments (11)
  • Missile J wins Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers

    YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) -- Missile J won the $300,000 Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night. … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 minutes ago
  • Reds snap 11-game skid, beat Brewers 7-6 after overturned DP

    Reds snap 11-game skid, beat Brewers 7-6 after overturned DP

    The Cincinnati Reds ended nearly two weeks of misery in a wild Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee. Joey Votto scored the go-ahead run in the ninth after an inning-ending double play was overturned on review, and the Reds rallied from a five-run … More »

    AP - Sports - 14 minutes ago
  • Wright-Phillips' hat trick leads Red Bulls past Toronto FC

    Wright-Phillips' hat trick leads Red Bulls past Toronto FC

    Bradley Wright-Phillips had his first hat trick since 2014 — when he had three — and the New York Red Bulls beat Toronto FC 3-0 on Saturday night. Wright-Phillips scored in the fourth, 25th and 27th minutes for the fastest hat trick in MLS history. … More »

    The Canadian Press - 19 minutes ago
  • Mets' Syndergaard ejected after throwing behind Utley

    Mets' Syndergaard ejected after throwing behind Utley

    In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was ejected Saturday night for throwing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Utley later hit a solo home run and a grand slam to … More »

    AP - Sports - 22 minutes ago
  • Pineda struggles again as Yankees lose 9-5 to Rays

    Pineda struggles again as Yankees lose 9-5 to Rays

    The New York Yankees say they are not yet ready to drop struggling Michael Pineda from their starting rotation. Pineda (2-6) allowed six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings of Saturday's 9-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, his sixth loss in seven … More »

    AP - Sports - 22 minutes ago