People lay flowers in front of the Arena

KHL vice-president: “hockey has a fantastic ability to cure pain”

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The Kontinential Hockey League is in unchartered waters these days. With the KHL season kicking off this month, the league’s decision-makers are faced with the unenviable task of trying to help a league move forward from this catastrophic event. To a larger degree, they’re faced with the responsibility of helping a city, a sport, and a nation at large cope with a tragedy the hockey world has never seen before. Sensitive situations like these are never easy to deal with.

As fans, friends, and family deal with the grief of losing loved ones, the league must decide what they want to do going forward. It’s an unfortunate nature of business: time doesn’t stop in the midst of bereavement. No matter when the timing KHL chooses to plan for the future, there will be those who think that it’s too soon. It’s an emotionally charged time filled with sorrow, confusion, and even bitterness.

KHL vice-president Ilya Kochevrin understands that emotions are running at an all time high as the league tries to play for the future.

“Sports are based on the emotions. Nobody wants to exploit emotions, but I think you need to keep those emotions going. Otherwise, it’s very easy to switch the emotions to something else…

“People in Yaroslavl will need a place where they can actually put things together for themselves. I think hockey has a fantastic ability to cure pain.”

As Joe said earlier this week, fans and players will look to the game to heal together. One of the first steps towards healing together is returning the game to the city most horribly affected.

Many of the decision-makers within the KHL power structure agree that it would be best if Lokomotiv was rebuilt in some capacity this season. In addition to Kochevrin, KHL president Alexander Medvedev would like to see the existing team help restock the Lokomotiv roster for the current season. The KHL would utilize a dispersal draft (similar to an expansion draft in the NHL) where teams could protect a certain number of players while Yaroslavl selects players to round-out their team.

There will be a service to remember the players lost at Arena 2000 in Yaroslavl on Saturday. After the memorial, the league will meet to determine the most appropriate (and realistic) course of action for the rest of the season. It’s a logistical nightmare to put the team together after the season has already started even if the powers-that-be agree that Lokomotiv should be rebuilt for this season. But under extraordinary circumstances, there’s no telling what the league presidents will be able to accomplish.

I, for one, would like to see the league figure this out and give the people of Yaroslavl something to look forward to this season. While it seems like an impossible situation right now, the city is going to be faced with grief in the coming days, weeks, and even months. If it were an NHL team in a similar situation, an entire season of grief for a fan base would be a horrible way to try to recover. It would be like dealing with another lockout that was caused by losing your heroes in a catastrophe. Like Kochevrin said, the sport can help serve the community by giving the people something to join together and support.

Any way you cut it, this is a nightmare scenario for everyone involved. Hopefully the KHL can figure out the best course of action to help the healing.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.