About 35,000 people gathered for a memorial ceremony at Yaroslavl arena on Saturday to mourn the losses suffered by Lokomotiv. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was among the people who came to pay their tributes to the victims of that terrible plane crash, which claimed the lives of 43 people, including most of the KHL team. The league recently announced that Lokomotiv won’t participate in the 2011-12 season.
Agence France-Presse reports that the turnout was so large that it forced organizers to extend the ceremony by more than an hour. That same report reveals that Yaroslavl’s Upsensky cathedral was the site of a private funeral service for several of the players’ close relatives.
While the team was comprised of many Russian players, there were also foreign players who were members of the club. Czech-born players Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Jan Marek will be honored in an official service on Sunday afternoon at Prague’s Old Town square. Goalie Stefan Liv’s death shook many people in his native Sweden as well.
Aviation and safety officials continue to try to piece together the cause of the crash while the accident’s two survivors – including player Alexander Galimov – remain in critical condition.
The Associated Press caught up with two significant Russian hockey figures who attended the funeral.
“It’s hard for me to talk because I loved the team so much,” said Slovakian national hockey team coach Vladimir Vujtek, who had previously coached Lokomotiv.
“For the first time in my life, I had trouble entering an ice arena,” KHL chairman and former NHL star Vyacheslav Fetisov said at the ceremony. “It’s an inexplicable tragedy.”
Puck Daddy’s Dmitri Chesnokov spoke with Evgeni Malkin and translated an interview that featured Pavel Datsyuk in separate posts. Here is an excerpt of what Datsyuk said about the sad situation first.
“This morning right before our meeting I watched a requiem on YouTube that was organized in Minsk in remembrance of the hockey players who died. It touched me so deep how people reacted to this tragedy, with the kind of respect they remembered [those] people. It touched my soul.
“But I caught myself thinking that I still cannot believe it. I cannot accept that this actually happened. Only now I am starting to realize that you cannot bring the guys back. I don’t want to believe it… But now you have to live with it.”
Finally, here is a portion of what Malkin had to say.
“All the players who are overseas right now — and I talked with a lot of them — we are all feeling for you, supporting…. This is a terrible tragedy. We have to live through it together. We have to keep together and move on. I know that Russia will get back on its feet and will carry on moving forward.”
Today marks yet another tough day as Russian hockey, the KHL and the hockey world at large tries to move on from that horrific event. We’ll keep an eye on the sad situation as ceremonies continue, information is updated and people continue to react.