The headline you see above was a direct quote issued by the president of the KHL, Alexander Medvedev, as he and other officials, both hockey and government, arrived to the city of Yaroslavl amid the tragedy that has sent waves throughout the sporting world and front pages across the globe. From the hundreds of Lokomotiv fans gathering for candlelight vigils to the arrival of President Dmitry Medvedev, the city has been in thoughts of many and in the hearts of millions.
From a Russian hockey standpoint, many of the players both here in America and back in the KHL have connection to the club whether as opponents on a yearly basis or growing up with some of those who perished. From the biggest names in the sport such as Alexander Ovechkin who played with Alexander Galimov, the lone survivor of the Lokomotiv roster, in 2005 at the World Juniors, to alumni and fans in 10 countries which have lost their hockey heroes and icons.
You don’t have to go too far in the hockey sphere to find someone who played with, against, cheered for, met, or worked with one of the many Lokomotiv players aboard the fateful plane.
Yesterday, yours truly predicted that this would be the end of the Yaroslavl club as we know it due to the extreme amount of grief and sensitivity that will linger with the team for years to come. A mere 24 hours later it appears there has been much enthusiasm from up to 35 players currently in the KHL to leave their respective clubs to play for the storied franchise.
What’s better is that not a single person from the KHL hierarchy has even gotten to that point of approaching them, meaning this comes on simple free will. While it’s not to say most professional athletes from different sports wouldn’t do the same in situations like this, it would mark the first time in modern sports that elite players donned the same uniforms worn by their fallen comrades.
With news like this it’s hard to imagine the country’s best born and bred players who are currently contractually obligated in the KHL not wanting to be a part of what could turn out to be the glimmer of positivity following the darkest day the sport has ever seen. Additionally, there have been rumblings that this would be done without compensation but at as of right now that is mostly hearsay. Not only does the city of Yaroslavl and the supporters of Lokomotiv need this but the entire country could use a boost.
The months of August and September are never kind to Russia in recent memory whether it be bombings, hostage situations, sunken submarines or tourist cruise liners, wildfires, and plane catastrophes predating yesterday; the country’s ego has suffered quite the blow. It seems almost standard practice to allow something such as sport to help cope with the pain of life and no time is better than now for sport to step up and deliver.
Why should the limit for those who have the desire to leave their KHL teams and join Lokomotiv stop there? Why not players with bigger last names in the NHL join, even if only temporarily, to help unite the city that gave the world films, theatre, mathematicians, and female astronauts something in return?
Alexander Ovechkin has been endlessly quoted saying how he will represent Russia in 2014 regardless of the NHL’s participation. He should consider right now, going and suiting up, even if it’s just one game to help the fans of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl cope. The Capitals allowed him to leave when his grandfather passed and I can’t imagine much hesitation from their front office in stopping him from participating in some way, shape, or form in the revival of one of the country’s vital hockey clubs.
Why stop with Ovechkin? Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Gonchar, Varlamov, plus any others should also be involved. It’s time to answer your country’s call.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the NHL who has played in Russia or was born there to not want to help. Time will obviously tell the route the KHL chooses on how to proceed with the most delicate of situations but I would like to believe the idea proposed above would not be scoffed at by the man who promised to keep the team afloat. Alexander Medvedev, you’ve spent enough time essentially poaching Russians back to the Motherland, now it’s time to simply just ask in order to help hockey in Yaroslavl survive.