By: Lauren Burg
September 7th, 2012 marked the one year anniversary of the plane crash that so tragically killed 44 members of Russia's KHL hockey team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. In the past three months hockey fans have also remembered the passing of current or former NHL players Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard. You could say the 2011 offseason was a tough time for all hockey fans. However, from those tragedies hockey fans, no matter the team, country they live in, etc., have united. Though some people may ask why, we know it's because hockey fans, just like many other sports fans, are a family. As is the case with most families, we have our disagreements but are able to put those aside in the face of tragedy.
On this tragic anniversary, you probably saw many NHL fans wearing red bracelets saying "Love For Lokomotiv" which were sold at all NHL home openers last season. Also, if you were to go to Twitter you'd notice many people tweeting in remembrance of KHL Lokomotiv. Some NHL teams and players also paid homage to those lost last summer. The Florida Panthers twitter account (@FlaPanthers) paid their respects by tweeting a photo, which can be seen at https://twitter.com/FlaPanthers, of former Panthers Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins and Alexander Karpovtsev along with a photo of the entire Lokomotiv team. The Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) did something similar, tweeting a photo of former Leafs Igor Korolev and Karpovtsev, which can be seen at https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs. Current Dallas Star Jamie Benn, @JamieBenn14, also tweeted in remembrance of Lokomotiv.
Of course, Lokomotiv wasn't the only loss hockey fans experienced last summer. The losses of Rypien, Belak and Boogaard were just as significant and also united the hockey community. The loss of Rypien even prompted some NHL fans to make a Facebook page, as seen here http://www.facebook.com/NHLFansRickRypienFoundationMHA, for fellow fans to share their stories and struggles while promoting mental health awareness. Rypien's Vancouver Canucks teammate and close friend, Kevin Bieksa, also raised his voice by becoming an advocate supporter of mindcheck.ca, a website created to help people understand and identify the signs of mental illness. (Source: http://mindcheck.ca/inonevoice)
This summer (2012), you've likely seen lots of hockey fans angry over the Collective Bargaining Agreement and impending lockout. However, on these anniversaries we've put that aside to honor those lost during the summer of 2011. We have our favorite teams, our rivals, countries we support, etc. but in the face of tragedy we all unite. With that in mind, you can probably see that all hockey fans share a bond, one that can't be broken by disagreements or rivalries, but can be strengthened by going through tough times.
*News from the Lokomotiv plane crash can be found here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=587792.
**You can follow me, Lauren Burg, on Twitter @TBLightning491 or Daily Shootout, @DailyShootout, on Twitter. **