Further reflection on recent hockey tragedies

Note to readers:  This is a pretty personal reflection, but I welcome your thoughts and comments!  Thanks for reading.

My best friend mentioned this morning that September 12, in many ways, is a harder day for him then September 11.  Because 10 years ago, the morning after the 9/11 attacks was the day everything began to set in.  America had changed.  We had new fears, and a new reality, and nothing was going to be as it was before.  On September 11 there was shock, but the 12th brought fear.

This morning, Alexander Galimov, the sole member of Yaroslavl Lovomitiv who survived the plane crash last week, passed away from injuries sustained during the accident.

One more death, added on to an already tragic event.  Too many have died this summer.  Whether a result of this terrible accident in Russia or drug overdoses or apparent suicides, the hockey community has suffered in immeasurable ways.  The only bright spot in all of this tragedy is that the community is close-knit enough to overcome.  The lives lost will forever be in the hearts of fans, journalists, friends, teammates and of course family, but I firmly believe that this community can and will overcome.  Tragedy leads to change, and reflection, but eventually, we can and will move forward.

I remember 10 years ago, the days following the attacks, and how parts of my life just froze.  We were stuck in this in-between, having a hard time to move forward again.  But when regular life began to return to it’s normal rhythm, I was relieved.  Sporting events and entertainment performances which had been cancelled and postponed, began occurring again with regularity.  Commercial flights took to the skies again.  And while it was hard to establish that way of life again, especially with all of the changes to the world, it was a relief. I wanted to go back to work.  I needed the structure and schedule of a routine, and to not be faced each and every moment with the images on the television around the clock, images that haunted me and weren’t helping me heal, because they were permanent.  They couldn’t be changed.  I wanted life again, not to be frozen in time.

Today, it’s expected that the KHL will make a formal announcement cancelling Yaroslavl Lovomitiv’s participation in the 2011-12 hockey season.  And while I understand that an entire world needs to grieve the loss of those athletes, coaches and staff members, I also think there is a part of human nature that wants to move forward, and not dwell on the terrible tragedies of the past.

The idea of professional sports is a complicated one, that I have dedicated a lot of my graduate school education to studying.  It’s more than simply playing games.  There is big business involved.  Journalism and media.  Fans, and culture and scales of how much enjoyment a person gets from involvement in the sport.  It is so much bigger than simply a game.

I can’t help but think of the business of hockey, and how many people’s livlihood relies on the sport to survive.  Building workers, ice technicians, consession stand attendants, plus people like sports writers and journalists who’s livelihood revolves around them covering that beat.  There are countless sponsors who rely on advertising with the team, and the fans, who lose what might be their sole escape in a stressful life.  I can’t begin to count how many times the knowledge I was going to a game that week was a huge motivation for getting through an especially trying workday.  I think most of us can agree with this.  Fielding a team this season would be a challenge, but is quite feasible.  I’m sure plenty of tears would be shed, but if it helps people move forward, it’s something I would support.

So I’m not sure if cancelling the entire season in Yaroslavl is the right course of action, but that could also be more a sign of the way I handle grief.  I give myself time to let a situation sink in, and then I move forward, and want to make the best of my new reality.  I try to be an optimist, and try to see the positive and the good things a bad situation can bring.  In the case of Yaroslavl, I hope there will be further safety measures put into place regarding travel in the KHL.

I think we need time to grieve, but I also believe we need to move forward.  We need to remember those who lost their lives, and find ways to prevent something like this ever happening again.

Regardless of the decisions made by KHL and team officials, the one thing I will say, is my prayers continue to go out for all those affected by this tragedy, and I pray we are never faced with anything like it again.


Rest in Peace Lokomotiv, Wade, Derek and Rick


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