A year ago today, the hockey world received the final blow in a series of punches to the gut. News had broken of a plane crash in Russia, an entire hockey team on board. We would learn that only one player, Alex Galimov, and a crew member survived the initial crash. Five days later, Galimov passed, becoming part of a tragedy that had followed the deaths of three NHL players before it.
I was on the bus heading to school when I first heard the news. It felt like someone had cut off my air supply, leaving me gasping. A few tears were shed, but I mostly experienced a sense of shock, as in, “Not again, please.” When I learned that Josef Vasicek, who had played a season with the Islanders, was one of the players who had perished, it was even more painful to know that we had a tie to one of the victims.
However brief his time on the Island was, Vasicek was still a part of our family. He scored 16 goals and 35 points as an Isle in 2007-08, his best scoring year since his Cup run with Carolina in 2005-06. Off the ice, he seemed affable, and overall he was a great part of that year’s Isles team, although he never got another chance at an NHL playoffs. He was taken from this world much too soon, not unlike the rest of his teammates and coaching staff on Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. (For a nice tribute to him and his Hurricanes career, see this post.)
One year after the plane crash that ended his life and the lives of 43 other men, we remember Josef Vasicek and Lokomotiv. We send our thoughts (and for some, our prayers) and we hope that they’ve found peace wherever they may be. We also, at least for a day or even a couple of minutes, band closer together and forget about team colors and affiliations, because ultimately, the game isn’t what matters anymore.
Rest in peace, Lokomotiv.