Awful news arriving out of Russia this morning, as the Kontinental Hockey League’s Lokomotiv were involved in a plane crash shortly after their takeoff.
This summer has not been kind to the Hockey Family. This tragedy adds to the list of NHL players who have already passed away, Lokomotiv’s charter flight filled with former NHL players, coaches, and the KHL’s elite.
This is, as many of you know, not the first instance of death where the KHL was alongside. Alexei Cherepanov died while playing for the Avangard Omsk in October of 2008. For many of us fans of the NHL Cherepanov’s death was an anomaly, some blamed the KHL for insuffiecient medical care, others blaming the medical staff for not realizing the danger of Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle many believe killed Cherepanov after a particualrly draining hockey game.
Unlike Cherepanov, however, the Lokomotiv’s tradegy is one that spans both the NHL and the KHL. As the KHL continues to grow and offer playing oppurtunities to elite level athletes, the more the KHL’s tragedys will feel like the NHL’s own.
A few of the players on Lokomotiv’s roster at the time of the crash were former NHL players, many of them spent many years plying their trade in the world’s top league. Among them were former Canucks’ forward Pavol Demitra and the Detroit Red Wings’ former assistant to Mike Babcock, Brad McCrimmon.
Pavol Demitra is a far cry from Alexei Cherepanov when it comes to NHL fans. Pavol played in the NHL from 1993 until 2010, a 17 year career that still had some fire left, which is why he shipped himself to Lokomotiv for the 2010 season. Pavol played on many international stages for Slovakia and was a force for their team every time he wore their colors.
As the KHL develops, more and more players will find refuge in the league when and if they can not make it against the NHL’s players. The KHL offers a nice living in Russia, the money for players is bountiful, and the level of play is very high.
As the KHL grows, more players and coaches with names that we NHL fans recognize will find a home within the KHL family. Demitra, McCrimmon, Rachunek, Salei, and Skrastins are names familiar to many NHL teams and their fans. It is such a sore day that we must bid them farewell like this.
As the KHL grows, many players from our Hockey Family will leave home for great playing opportunities. As the hockey landscape changes and evolves, tragedies from one league will span countries and entire continents.
It is a heartbreaking day for hockey fans everywhere. As our sport further grows and develops, no one within the Hockey Family will be untouched by tragedies of this scale.