Last November, nearly every member of the team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was killed in a plane crash that devastated the hockey world. Today, the team is one of the KHL's best.
Prague, Czech Republic
Wooden hockey sticks smack into rubber pucks as the metal blades of skates slice through the ice. The sounds echo through an empty arena in the Czech capital Prague in late November as a visiting hockey team prepares for another game in the Kontinental Hockey League.
But this is no ordinary squad. This is Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a Russian team that was literally wiped out last year in an air tragedy that shocked the hockey world.
On Sept. 7, 2011, the team was set to fly to Minsk to play their first game of the new season amid high hopes of adding to its league titles from the 1990s. But the team’s plane, a Yak-42, never gained proper altitude and slammed into a tower. It went down in flames about a mile from Tunoshna Airport in Yaroslavl, Russia.
Forty-five people on board died, among them some of the greats of the game, including Slovakia’s Pavol Demitra; Ruslan Salei, a hero back home in Belarus; and three Czech players with world championship medals. Only the flight engineer survived.
A government investigation found one of the pilots had literally stepped on the brakes, dragging the plane down when it should have been going up. It later emerged the pilot and co-pilot were not properly trained to fly the Yak-42, and had forged documents to prove otherwise.