The plane crash that killed all the members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL in 2011 was one of the saddest stories in sports history. The lives lost that day ranged from veteran players who never left Russia to former NHL players who returned to Europe to keep their career going.
One of those players was Pavol Demitra and a host of former NHL players are touring his home country of Slovakia this summer hosting three charity hockey games to raise money for youth hockey in the country as NHL.com shared.
A team of Slovak stars will face a team of St. Louis Blues stars in the games. Former NHL players Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Peter Bondra, Miroslav Satan, and John Wensink joined up with Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for the effort all to help remember their friend and countryman.
“I am glad that we could pay tribute to [Pavol] this way,” Chara said. “The other good thing was the game was a sellout. It shows people here love hockey. Playing with all these stars from both teams was a great honor for me.”
The two sides have played one game already in Poprad. Game 2 will be on Friday in Trencin followed by Game 3 in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, on Saturday.
The KHL is claiming a pair of up and coming young blue liners thanks to the lockout.
While Victor Hedman signed on with Barys Astana earlier in the day, the Panthers will lose one of their own.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, currently an unsigned RFA, will play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl during the work stoppage.
The 2009 first-round pick was unable to get a deal done with Florida ahead of the lockout and will likely take a bit of a hit when he signs after the lockout ends.
Another day, another player jumping to the KHL.
This time it’s Columbus forward Artem Anisimov, returning home to play for the club team of his youth, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
The news was made official early Thursday morning by Lokomotiv’s official Twitter account, announcing that Animisov — who played for the club at the junior and senior levels before joining the New York Rangers — would return to bolster a squad devastated by the 2011 air disaster.
Anisimov will join a number of ex-NHLers in Yaroslavl. Viktor Kozlov, Mark Flood, Nicklas Hagman, Staffan Kronwall, Curtis Sanford, Sami Lepisto and Vitaly Vishnevsky are already with the team and it’s possible other current NHLers could follow suit, given the large number that have already signed on to play in the KHL.
The 24-year-old Russian is in the final year of a two-year, $3.75 million extension signed with the Rangers in 2011. Now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets — by way of the Rick Nash trade — Anisimov finds himself in a precarious situation.
He’s entering a contract year, with a new team, but has yet to debut for the Jackets because of the lockout and is now taking the added risk of playing overseas.
With the lockout all but inevitable at this point, Russian NHL stars are turning their attention to playing at home during the stoppage.
Sport-Express out of Russia reports Lokomotiv Yaroslavl will bring Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin aboard during the lockout. Slava Malamud reports Lokomotiv had originally been against adding NHL players who would only be there part time, but it appears they’re changing their mind on Semin.
The KHL has put a three-player limit on the number of exiled NHL players a team can sign. Expect to see more Russian players pop up there during the lockout. With Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar reportedly already in Russia working out for Magnitogorsk, others are sure to follow.
After playing in a career-high 33 games last season, Mark Flood is taking his game to Russia and the KHL.
Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports Flood has signed a deal with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to help that team restart its program. Flood finished last season with three goals and four assists in limited duty with the Jets. He’s a puck-moving defenseman with a little bit of offensive game but enjoyed greater success in the AHL in his journeyman career.
Flood won’t be the only former NHL’er in Yaroslavl as he’ll join Niklas Hagman, Sami Lepisto, and Curtis Sanford there next season. Seeing that team rebound after the tragic plane crash that claimed the entire team will be a story to take note of in just months as the KHL season begins.