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Worst fears realized in KHL crash

By Dan Di Sciullo
NHL Editor


Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is no doubt that advances in technology over the last century have brought many wonderful things to humankind.

Indeed, the modern world and its marvels can be so awe-inspiring that perhaps we sometimes forget that technology cannot always prevent tragedy.

This point was cruelly illustrated Wednesday near the city of Yaroslavl, Russia, where an airplane carrying members of the Russian hockey team Lokomotiv crashed into the banks of the Volga River, killing at least 43 people, including a number of former NHL players.

In North America, we quickly latched onto the names familiar to us that perished in the crash to help make sense of it all. People like Lokomotiv's head coach Brad McCrimmon, who played in six different NHL cities, including Boston and Philadelphia or Pavol Demitra, who was a three-time NHL All-Star and last played with the Canucks in 2009-10.

On Sep. 10, a memorial ceremony will be held at Yaroslavl's arena to remember those whose lives were taken in the crash.
Yet, as time goes by we'll become less interested in honing in on the individual and more interested in getting a broader and more studied appraisal of the crash.

Of course, the idea of any plane crashing is more than a little bit unsettling, but there is something even more harrowing about an air disaster like the one in Yaroslavl. After all, sports teams are symbols of civic pride and when one can be almost completely wiped out in an instant, it can't help but make us ponder our own mortality.

However, in the same instant we can also witness humanity's fierce will to live. The fact that two people -- Lokomotiv player Alexander Galimov and flight engineer Alexander Sizov -- survived a crash that killed so many is a testament to our species' perseverance. Both men have since been flown to Moscow for treatment and are reportedly still in grave condition, but the hopes and prayers of the world are with them.

It's also very human to try and correct a tragedy by taking steps to prevent future disasters. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev spoke Thursday about making changes to his country's aviation industry, which has been criticized for cutting corners and putting low operating costs ahead of safety. Of course, none of Medvedev's proposed changes will help those who died in Wednesday's crash, but unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to effect change.

The Kontinental Hockey League -- the league Lokomotiv competes in -- has acted quickly to address the great loss suffered by one of its franchises. The league postponed the start of its season until September 12 and already has a plan in place to rebuild Lokomotiv.

According to a Thursday report from Rt.com, KHL president Alexander Medvedev said he will strive to keep Lokomotiv Yaroslavl competitive. He said league teams are willing to send their best players to create a new Yaroslavl club and the report also mentions that about three dozen KHL players are interested in joining Lokomotiv. Yaroslavl also has a youth team and it's expected that several of those players will be promoted to help lift the team rise from the ashes.

All of the steps taken towards putting the franchise back together can also help with the grieving process. The rebuilding of the team will be another example of how human beings are able to move on in the face of calamity.

On Sep. 10, a memorial ceremony will be held at Yaroslavl's arena to remember those whose lives were taken in the crash. There will be plenty of tears shed on that day and in the weeks, months and even years to come, but in the end we always find a way to cope.

The cynical among us often focus on the weakness of humans but people can also possess great strength. After all, an event like the crash in Yaroslavl can make us feel helpless for a while, but it can also spur us to try and make the world a safer, and better, place.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.

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