I still remember that week, and I still remember that day. September 7, 2011. I remember because the evening before I had invited my then-girlfriend to come over to spend the evening. When I suggested we watch a movie, we spent a good 30 minutes looking up and down my collection until she decided we should watch the Quebec hockey-cult movie, Lance et Compte, a film about a hockey team that encounters a terrible tragedy when their team bus has an accident and several members of their team die as a result, and the team tries relentlessly to rebuild.
I remember saying to myself, it’s terrible what happened, but it was just a movie. Little did I know that just 18 short hours later, an eerie circumstance would happen where something similar would happen halfway across the world.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was in the midst of a training session from the nearby Énergie-Cardio when I saw the news hit all the television screens in the whole gym. I wasn’t sure what was happening because there was no sound, but all it said in writing was ‘Entire Russian Hockey Team Killed in Plane Crash’.
When I got home after the workout, I checked all major media outlets and then I read the horrific news that was unfolding. A Kontinental Hockey League team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was traveling to their season opener in Minsk, Belarus, when a pilot error caused the plane to engulf into flames just two kilometers away from the airport and crashing straight into the nearby Volga River, killing all but two people on board.
From the two that survived the initial crash, one died a couple of days later in hospital, and only the flight’s avionics engineer, Alexander Sizov, survived. The victims ranged in age from 18 to 52 years old.
On the flight was a team fresh off the off-season, full of energy, and full of life, ready to conquer the KHL season when the tragedy struck. Three of the team’s newest players had just completed long tenures playing in the National Hockey League; Pavol Demitra, Karlis Skrastins, and Ruslan Salei, who were among the many who perished that afternoon.
There was also a handful of the team’s players who had previously played in the NHL at some point, and of the coaching staff, a lot were former players as well, including two of the newest members, Igor Korolev and Brad McCrimmon.
Families and friends were torn apart by the devastating tragedy, as many had loved ones on board the fateful flight.
The tragedy would go down as one of the worst disasters involving a sports team in history, and one that shook the world by storm, with people still in disbelief something so horrifying and tragic can still linger in our minds.
This year, in honor of the crash’s fifth anniversary, the Russian World Cup team held a moment of silence at their practice to remember the players, coaches, but mostly families and friends that perished that tragic day.
Living for the moment is essential, but it’s always important to never forget.