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Hockey's Worst Summer: A Staggering Body Blow

By September 7, 2011

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Pavol Demitra

Just last week folks were looking at the deaths of NHL veterans Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, and calling it a "wretched summer."

No one could have anticipated how much worse it would get.

Wednesday's plane crash in Russia killed nearly the entire roster of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a team in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.

The dead include several names familiar to NHL fans, like Slovak star Pavol Demitra (pictured) and former Calgary Flames captain Brad McCrimmon.

Collectively, the team had connections throughout the pro hockey community.

While players and executives around the world struggled to find the words, the KHL temporarily suspended operations.

For now, the league declined to discuss the continuation of the season or the future of Lokomotiv, one of its most successful franchises.

Eventually it will have to follow a contingency plan, and consider the delicate question of whether it's appropriate to ask any player to wear the Lokomotiv colors this season.

When the KHL finally resumes play it might look like business as usual.

But there's no telling how long the dark clouds will hang over this hockey season, as the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash takes its place among the worst air disasters in sports history.

Updates: Sept. 8/11 - Plans are afoot to rebuild the Lokomotiv roster. The KHL season will open on Monday after a memorial service on Saturday.
Sept. 10/11 - Contradicting earlier reports, team officials say the Lokomotiv franchise will not ice a team this season.
Sept. 10/11 - Thousands turn out for Saturday's memorial service at the arena in Yaroslavl.

Photo: The late Pavol Demitra celebrates a goal during the Bronze Medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Harry How/Getty Images).


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