Tag: tragedy

Karlis Skrastins

Must-click link: One of the saddest stories relating to the Lokomotiv tragedy you’ll read

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It’s difficult to find the right words in trying to describe what happened on Wednesday surrounding the events in Russia. The plane crash that resulted in 43 deaths including nearly the entire roster of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl is a story too gruesome and too sad for any of us to comprehend in a normal way.

For one sports fan in Texas, his encounter with the tragedy in Russia was a far more direct and saddening one. Hearing and reading about what happened in Russia and being affected by that is one thing, but having to drive the family of one of the players killed to the airport so they could fly to Russia because of it is another thing entirely.

Such is the story that’s told as the author at A Chick’s Perspective tells the tale of having to take Karlis Skrastins’ family to the airport where their lives were about to be changed for the worse.

If you’re not eager to read this, we understand. It’s a very sad and moving story and works as an outsider’s take on a story that doesn’t quite directly involve them. Instead, it throws them into the middle of the entire situation with a gut-wrenching twist.

Update (9/8 – 10 p.m.): As noted in the comments, the author has removed the post out of respect for Skrastins’ family.

In a year of hockey tragedy, fans and players will look to the game to heal together

Salavat Yulayev vs. Atlant - KHL - Russian crash reaction

The hockey community whether it’s that amongst the players or the fans is a very tightly knit one. The players’ bond with each other is as strong as any in professional sports and the fans’ love for the players and for each other is one that’s rivaled by very few in the sports community. Having a year like the hockey world has had this year is one that would test the limits of most anyone.

First there was the saddening suicide of minor league Sharks forward Tom Cavanagh in January. In May, Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead in his Minnesota apartment having died from a toxic mix of painkillers and alcohol. In the last few weeks we’ve had the gut-wrenching deaths of tough guys Rick Rypien and Wade Belak to sort through and try to figure out what it is that’s causing guys so young to either die or take their own lives too soon.

While many were still grieving over those terrible deaths, a disaster in Russia comes out of nowhere with a horrifying plane crash that takes the lives of virtually every member of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl; A team made up of many former NHL players famous and otherwise as well as other Russian professionals and junior stars.

So much tragedy, so much sadness, and so many questions left unanswered or ones we’d rather not have to hear the answers for. How can a family of hockey players, families, and fans cope with so much sadness? With so many awful things happening while there’s nothing going on on the ice, the answer for so many will be to turn their attention back to the game itself.

The cries always go up in August about how fans cannot wait until it’s October again to have the NHL, and hockey in general, back on the ice. This is the first time in a long time where hockey being played might be the only thing that helps put people’s minds at ease. While we try to stomach the unfathomable catastrophe in Russia and think of those lost and affected, their loss came while attempting to get to Minsk to begin their KHL season. Numerous lives lost all while trying to do what they love and support those who love them. It’s heartbreaking news of the highest order.

What we can all take away from this summer of horror is to appreciate all that we do have. Times like these even outside this realm of hockey are hard for a lot of people and hockey can provide their escape from the harshness of reality. Events like these remind us that we’re all trying to live the dream one way or another.

Embrace every day as a new and beautiful one and be thankful for what you do have and the people you do have in your life. Tell your loved ones that you’re thinking about them. Wish someone well on a new endeavor and hope that they’ll come away better for it. Tell someone important to you that you love them. We can be thankful that we’ll have an escape from all this sadness and unbelievable tragedy soon enough, but the players are people just like we are just the same and they’ll be in mourning just as we are.

We’re all feeling the pain again today and this summer is one that won’t be forgotten, but perhaps we can all grow together stronger through all of this. Making an already close-knit hockey family even stronger can’t be a bad thing.

Belak’s widow releases public statement

Nashville Predators v Anaheim Ducks
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While plenty of fans and members of the media are trying to figure out what Wade Belak’s death means to the NHL, it’s sobering to remember that Belak’s untimely passing will leave gigantic void for all of his friends and family. With each and every detail that is released, another wound is created for the people knew him on a personal level. Another wound for those who saw him on a day-to-day basis. Another wound for those who loved him.

Former teams have released public statements. The NHL and the NHLPA released statements yesterday and followed them up with a joint statement today. Finally, this afternoon, his wife Jennifer Belak issued a public statement as the aftershocks continue to hit the Belak family.

From the Nashville Predators official site:

“We are overwhelmed and deeply touched by the outpouring of compassion and support since Wade’s passing. Wade was a big man with an even bigger heart. He was a deeply devoted father and husband, a loyal friend and a well respected athlete. This loss leaves a huge hole in our lives and, as we move forward, we ask that everyone remember Wade’s infectious sense of humor, his caring spirit and the joy he brought to his friends, family and fans. The coming days will be very difficult for our family and we respectfully ask that we be allowed to grieve privately.”

The outpouring of support thus far has been what makes the hockey community great. Fans and journalists alike have mostly shown respect during an incredibly difficult and sensitive time. There are questions that need to be addressed regarding hockey and the unsettling common threads that bind each loss—and over time all of the questions will be addressed. Is there a mandate for the NHLPA to do a better job preparing hockey players for life after the game? Are there psychological reprocussions from being an NHL enforcer that the league is currently stuggling to understand?

There’s a laundry list of questions surrounding the sport in a time of crisis—and in a time of crisis, people demand quick answers. The painful truth is that it takes time to find all the answers that caused this to happen. Worse yet, it takes time for the league and its players to even ask the right questions. At this point, we can only hope that the series of unfortunate events this summer will eventually lead to some answers in the future. For no other reason, we could find the solutions that could prevent the next heartbreaking incident.

It’s still far too early to definitely say that there’s a single root problem that caused tom Cavanaugh, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Belak to be taken far too early. But it’s not too early for the NHL and the NHLPA to start investigating to prevent it from happening again. There may be nothing the sport can do—but it would be a crime for them to bury their heads in the sand and ignore this catastrophic summer.

We’ll continue to follow the story as more details emerge.

Hockey world reacts to Wade Belak’s death

Wade Belak
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In the wake of the NHL’s third horrific tragedy this offseason, the hockey world is starting to understand the weight of today’s events and come to terms with the heartbreak. Throughout the afternoon, both current and former players, announcers, agents, and journalists have all shared the sympathy and exchanged their thoughts on Wade Belak’s passing today. The common theme is that Belak was an unbelievably kind man who was quick to share a joke and bring laughter to people’s lives. Once again, the hockey world has lost one of its own way too soon.

Instead of sharing my individual thoughts, here’s a sample of the outpouring for the man who leaves behind a wife and two children. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney:

“Such sad news about Wade Belak. Always heard great things about him. Thought go out to his family. RIP.”

Calgary Flames’ statement via James Mirtle (The Globe and Mail):

“We are deeply saddened with the news of Wade’s passing. We are proud that Wade wore the Calgary uniform and we will always remember him as member of the Flames Family. We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Belak family. This is a terrible loss of a vibrant young man; a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey.”

Eric Francis from the Calgary Sun and Hockey Night in Canada’s Hotstove

Wade Belak RIP. This one’s tough. As good a guy as you’d meet. He was great for the game and teammates. Sadness and shock hits hockey again.”

St. Louis Blues’ radio play-by-play man Chris Kerber:

“Boogard, Rypien, Belak – Their deaths may be purely coincidental & no similarities but at least a Q of are there similarities must be asked.”

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore:

“I remember skating with Wade 13 years ago at a summer camp when I was 18 and in college. He was a pro, he worked hard, he was funny and he was extremely nice to me and he didn’t have to be. I was just a college kid. I looked up to him ever since then. You’ll be missed Wade.”

Former NHL enforcer Chris Dingman speaking about his own experiences:

“Terrible news about belak. Had many battles with him in junior, tough guy on the ice, great guy off the ice. My heart goes out to his family. People think sports, and most just see a lifestyle. It is really hard mentally and physically. Especially hard when your done. When your done, your left to let ponder, what do I do with, myself now? Tough to ponder… More needs to be done to ease the transition.”

NHL agent Scott Norton:

“Boogard, Rypien and now Belak? Maybe we should spend less time worrying how they play on the ice, and more time helping em cope off?”

“Sports leagues r so proud about war on#steroids, when we gonna wake up + realize that booze, cocaine + pain killers r killing our athletes?”

Newly retired NHLer Dave Scatchard:

“This is the worst summer I’ve ever seen with regards to tragedies in the NHL. I pray this all ends here. #RIPwadebelak. #Iwillmissumyfriend”

Ex-teammate Jordin Tootoo:

“Very sad to loose a great teammate and a better person in Wade Belak. The Tootoo family send his family all our thoughts and prayers.”

Another ex-teammate in Steve Sullivan:

“RIP Wade. Great father, husband, teammate and friend. You leave us way too early. You will be missed. Strength to your family and friends!”

Adrian Dater from the Denver Post and Sports Illustrated:

“Wade Belak death will bring changes to NHL. Good guy, good family, but the life is brutal for a fighter and self esteem is low. I’ve seen it”

Predators beat-writer Joshua Cooper passed along some of GM David Poile’s thoughts:

“Poile: “Everybody knew when Wade Belak was in the room because he was big, he was loud and he was fun.”

But of all the people who have already shared their thoughts, perhaps Bruce Arthur of the National Post said it best:

“But if he was a tortured enforcer, he was also a great actor of the age. I never met a happier-seeming guy in hockey. He always seemed at ease; he was freshly retired, and in town to appear on the CBC’s reality show, where he surely would have been the star. Except he’s dead, and hockey feels sick again, right to its stomach.

Of all the guys who play that increasingly anachronistic role, Belak was the last guy you expected to die young. He apparently told a Calgary radio station last week that he was happy and healthy, and his head wasn’t ringing. When he talked about his retirement with the Post’s Sean Fitz-Gerald last week, he said, “I thought about having a press conference, but I didn’t want to make an ass of myself.”

Fans gather at Rogers Arena to celebrate Rick Rypien

Tyler Stychyshyn

Amidst a tragic and confusing time, fans in Vancouver decided to take the opportunity to honor Rick Rypien with a makeshift memorial at Rogers Arena on Wednesday afternoon. A Facebook group announced that there would be a gathering set up between 2:00-8:00 to pay their respects to a player who was known for giving it his all for his team. At the memorial there were books for fans to sign and express condolences—the line to sign the books that will be sent off to the Rypien family was at times 40-50 people long. Organizers said that halfway through the memorial that there were already 500 signatures and messages of condolences in the books with many more expected throughout the late afternoon and early evening. Even hours after the memorial was set to conclude, people are still paying their respects on a Facebook page set up for well-wishers. (You can as well.)

Here’s an example of the type of fans who showed up to pay their respects. From Mike Raptis of the Vancouver Province:

“30-year-old Dave Morgan from Vancouver brought the last Manitoba Moose jersey Rypien wore to the memorial and has talked to the Canucks organization about giving it back to the Rypien family.

“If the family would like it, I’m more than happy to send it off to them and bring them some happy memories,” Morgan said.

“If they don’t want it, then it will bring me happy memories for the rest of my life.”

From the CBC:

“He wasn’t a huge guy but he would always stick up for his teammates. He kind of inspired me to be tougher in my own life.”

The Canucks official site captured the scene with a good slideshow of various photos from the fan memorial outside Rogers Arena.

While there will be plenty of people using this tragedy to springboard a greater debate, today we focus on celebrating the life and career of a man whose soul had far too many demons. We celebrate the player who played with kind of speed and energy that even the hockey novice could understand. We celebrate a player who would stick up for his teammates and brought excitement to the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose for the last seven years. Save the debate for another day: today fighting is a part of our game—and you’d be hard pressed to a better pound-for-pound fighter than Rypien.

Without further adieu, here are some of his career highlights with the Ripper doing what he did best.

Oh, it’s playmaking you want? Rypien provided this beaut as well:

On this day where fans celebrated his life, our thoughts go out to his friends and family. We can’t even imagine the grief… may Rick rest in peace.

Update (8/18/11): Nucks Misconduct has some good pictures that captured the event very well.