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In a year of hockey tragedy, fans and players will look to the game to heal together

Sep 7, 2011, 4:17 PM EDT

Salavat Yulayev vs. Atlant - KHL - Russian crash reaction AP

The hockey community whether it’s that amongst the players or the fans is a very tightly knit one. The players’ bond with each other is as strong as any in professional sports and the fans’ love for the players and for each other is one that’s rivaled by very few in the sports community. Having a year like the hockey world has had this year is one that would test the limits of most anyone.

First there was the saddening suicide of minor league Sharks forward Tom Cavanagh in January. In May, Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead in his Minnesota apartment having died from a toxic mix of painkillers and alcohol. In the last few weeks we’ve had the gut-wrenching deaths of tough guys Rick Rypien and Wade Belak to sort through and try to figure out what it is that’s causing guys so young to either die or take their own lives too soon.

While many were still grieving over those terrible deaths, a disaster in Russia comes out of nowhere with a horrifying plane crash that takes the lives of virtually every member of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl; A team made up of many former NHL players famous and otherwise as well as other Russian professionals and junior stars.

So much tragedy, so much sadness, and so many questions left unanswered or ones we’d rather not have to hear the answers for. How can a family of hockey players, families, and fans cope with so much sadness? With so many awful things happening while there’s nothing going on on the ice, the answer for so many will be to turn their attention back to the game itself.

The cries always go up in August about how fans cannot wait until it’s October again to have the NHL, and hockey in general, back on the ice. This is the first time in a long time where hockey being played might be the only thing that helps put people’s minds at ease. While we try to stomach the unfathomable catastrophe in Russia and think of those lost and affected, their loss came while attempting to get to Minsk to begin their KHL season. Numerous lives lost all while trying to do what they love and support those who love them. It’s heartbreaking news of the highest order.

What we can all take away from this summer of horror is to appreciate all that we do have. Times like these even outside this realm of hockey are hard for a lot of people and hockey can provide their escape from the harshness of reality. Events like these remind us that we’re all trying to live the dream one way or another.

Embrace every day as a new and beautiful one and be thankful for what you do have and the people you do have in your life. Tell your loved ones that you’re thinking about them. Wish someone well on a new endeavor and hope that they’ll come away better for it. Tell someone important to you that you love them. We can be thankful that we’ll have an escape from all this sadness and unbelievable tragedy soon enough, but the players are people just like we are just the same and they’ll be in mourning just as we are.

We’re all feeling the pain again today and this summer is one that won’t be forgotten, but perhaps we can all grow together stronger through all of this. Making an already close-knit hockey family even stronger can’t be a bad thing.

  1. jerseypatriot76 - Sep 7, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Fantastic read, Joe. We needed to read something like this today. Hockey fans are a special group. We love this game, and these players will stay forever etched in our memories and no zamboni can wipe them way. This is a pain we feel as a “family” and it is one that stings to the core. You only pray this is the last hockey death of any young men we will read about for years.

  2. rycheous66 - Sep 7, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Very well spoken, and thought out. Hopefully, this teaches us, fret not for what we don’t have, but treasure what we do.

  3. drummergirl73 - Sep 7, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Thank you so much for this article. I hope hockey fans become close and more supportive of one another, regardless of what team they cheer for. We are all people, life is difficult for many. Hockey is our game, and should provide us that magical escape, thrilling moments and something wonderful to hope for. May all of these hockey heros, who worked so hard for their families and their fans, rest in peace.

  4. dcent87 - Sep 7, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Great article!

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