Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s NHL stars
6 February 1958 was the darkest day in Man Utd’s history when 23 members of its football team were killed after their plane crashed trying to take off a runaway at Munich airport. Amongst them their best and brightest talent including the prodigious Duncan Edwards. The club in its aftermath faced desperate times including the possibility of folding up.
Matt Busby, the genius behind the Busby Babes was severely injured and spent the next two months recuperating and then fighting waves of crippling depression. He, nevertheless, came back next season, and under him a new generation of Busby Babes, legends like Denis Law and George Best, flourished. Ten years later, Utd won the European Cup beating Benfica.
7 September 2011 was the darkest day in ice hockey history as a horrific plane crash killed 40 members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. Amongst them coach Brad McCrimmon and assistant coach, Alexander Karpovtsev, a former member of the 1994 Stanley Cup winning NY Rangers team. Other former Rangers included Jan Marek and Karel Rachůnek. Amongst them too, Josef Vašíček and Alexander Vasyunov formerly affiliated with local area clubs NY Islanders and NJ Devils.
In a classy gesture of solidarity, Utd CEO David McGill wrote them a letter expressing his club’s deepest sympathies for the befallen and expressing their hope that they too would be able to overcome this tragedy and rebuild.
“I hope that you can take strength from the knowledge that with time, support and the collective determination of those who are left at the club and colleagues throughout your sport and further afield, Lokomotiv will recover from this and rebuild itself in the memory of those who died.”
Perhaps, Yaroslavl, too can take comfort from the tragedy closer to home that befell a now defunct club of the former Soviet Union that killed 19 members of the VVS Moscow team in an air crash in 1950. That team managed to recruit players from other teams and won the league next year. The fact it was Joseph Stalin’s son Vasily who ran the club probably explains the accelerated re-building.