Fans, players and organizations across the globe took the time Friday to remember those who died as the hockey world honors the one-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed 44 people, including most of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team.
As published on Digital Journal, the plane, which was carrying the Lokomotiv team to its first KHL game of the season, crashed shortly after takeoff. Among the dead were former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Igor Korolev and coach Brad McCrimmon.
A memorial service was held Friday, as mourners gathered at a Yaroslavl cathedral while family and friends of the deceased laid flowers in remembrance. The procession was then slated to continue to the arena, where black balloons would be released into the sky to mark the exact time of the crash.
The tragic crash stunned the hockey world and resulted in an exhaustive investigation that continues to reveal startling information about the fateful flight. According to a report in the Toronto Star, Investigators charged a former executive of Yak Service Airlines in connection with the crash just one day before the memorial.
The arrest was made after investigators discovered that neither pilot was qualified to operate the Yak-42 that plummeted into the bank of the Tunoshna River, just two kilometres from the runway. A spokesman said that flight captain Andrei Solomentsev had forged the documents necessary for him to fly, while co-pilot Igor Zhevelov had yet to complete his requalification exam.
The arrest is of little consolation to those who lost a loved one on the flight - as ESPN's Scott Burnside writes here, families affected by the tragedy are still struggling to cope with the shock of it all. Yet, the one-year mark of the tragedy also brought plenty of reason for hope.
Steve and Sara
Children look over a memorial held for members of the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team who died in a plane crash Sept. 7, 2011.
The club, which sat out the entire 2011-12 season despite offers from other KHL teams to provide players, returned to the ice on the eve of the anniversary and earned an emotional 5-2 victory over host Sibir Novosibirsk. According to the IIHF report, the Novosibirsk crowd of more than 7,000 spent the entire game chanting "Loko" before giving the visitors a standing ovation at the final siren.
The on-ice tributes continued Friday with a game featuring stars from Russia and the rest of the world. Those in attendance were expected to include KHL president Alexander Medvedev, Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak and Wayne Gretzky, who is also in Russia to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the famed Summit Series. A host of other Canadian hockey legends, including Mark Messier and Bobby Hull, are also there.
The tributes weren't limited to Russia. Fans, media and players flocked to Facebook and Twitter to offer their thoughts and prayers. Among them:
@AnzeKopitar: One year since Lokomotiv tragedy... My thoughts and prayers are with the families and everybody involved... #hockeyfamily
-- Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings forward
@MikeMcKenna56: One year ago I awoke in a panic fearing the worst for my friend Alexander Vasyunov & the rest of the guys on #Lokomotiv. Such a sad day
-- St. Louis Blues goaltending prospect Mike McKenna. Vasyunov, a former minor-league teammate, was among those who died
@proteautype: Sept. 7, 2011. Lokomotiv. We'll never forget those lost or left behind.
-- Adam Proteau, columnist, The Hockey News
No KHL games are scheduled for Friday. Lokomotiv will play its first home game Sept. 16 against Atlant Mytischi.