September 08, 2011
Members of the Kontinental Hockey League's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were flying to Minsk for their season opener when their plane crashed soon after takeoff on Wednesday. Forty-three passengers died, including nearly all of Lokomotiv's players and coaching staff, in one of the greatest tragedies to ever hit the hockey community.
On Thursday night, Dynamo Minsk players still skated out on the ice of their arena — not for a game, but for a remarkable "hockey funeral" for their fallen opponents, in front of stands packed with fans in mourning. This is as surreal, heartbreaking and moving a moment as we've seen on the rink:
All tickets for the game had been sold long before the tragedy. Soon after the sad news spread worldwide, the game's organizers decided to arrange a mass at the arena, honoring the legacy of the team.
Not a single ticket had been returned as the ceremony was held in the packed arena. Each spectator brought flowers. All the Belarusian leadership, including President Aleksandr Lukashenko, were present at the event.
Never was the arena that silent as 37 huge portraits of the players and staff were placed on the ice. A requiem mass was performed by an orchestra, while portraits of the departed Yaroslavl friends and icons appeared on the scoreboard.
As you can see, part of the tribute included Dynamo players firing pucks into their own net to symbolize a defeat to the Lokomotiv team that perished on Wednesday. Later, flowers were placed inside the goals in their memory.
Here is the full 34-minute ceremony via the KHL (s/t Captain Orange)
Tributes are continuing to be held across the globe for these players — rain or shine, New Jersey Devils fans are gathering at Championship Plaza in Newark for a memorial at 5 p.m. ET on Friday. If you have any images or reports from a memorial near you, hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
s/t to Monica McAlister for the video.