Hodge: Headache and heartaches continue for NHL this summer

The summer of tears for the National Hockey League players, owners and fans continues.

The summer of tears for the National Hockey League  players, owners and fans continues.

Fans and even non-fans of the game are in a state of numbness and disbelief this week following the latest tragedy – a horrendous plane crash in Russia that left 43 people dead.

Most of the victims were professional hockey players, including eight former NHL players and a number of potential NHL players playing in the elite European Kontinental Hockey League.

The crash, near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia, involved team members of the Kontinental Hockey League club, Lokomotiv. Russian officials have confirmed that the entire main roster of Lokomotiv, plus four players from a Russian youth team, were on the plane. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, founded in 1949 as the team of the Railways Ministry, is one of Russia’s leading hockey teams, runner-up for the KHL championship in 2008 and 2009.

The airplane, a Yakovlev Yak-42 passenger jet, crashed and caught fire immediately after taking to the air, crashing less than two kilometres from the airport near the city on the Volga River, some 150 miles northeast of Moscow. It’s the first such major air accident involving a pro hockey team.

For some fans, the tragedy was met with a glum sort of reality acceptance, considering how many flights pro hockey players  take in a season.

Truly, as International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said, the crash marks what he called “the darkest day in the history of our sport.”

“…This is not only a Russian tragedy, the Lokomotiv roster included players and coaches from 10 nations,” he said.

Among the veteran NHL players who died are popular former defenseman Brad McCrimmon, former Vancouver Canuck Pavel Demitra, and other NHL vets  Joseph Vasicek, Karel Rechuneck and Ruslan Salei.

McCrimmon played in the NHL and most recently served as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings before taking the Yaroslavl job in May.

McCrimmon played defense for six NHL teams—Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix in a 17-year career, appearing in 1,222 regular-season games in the NHL.

He was an assistant coach with the New York Islanders, Atlanta Flames, and Calgary.

I had the pleasure of meeting McCrimmon on a number of occasions over the years, just enough times to recognize what a classy, professional, caring and kind man he was. My condolences to his friends and family.

The horrendous crash follows on the heels of three separate sudden deaths of current or recently retired NHL enforcers—Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard and Wade Belak—with at least two of them being  apparent suicides.

Meanwhile, we also learned Wednesday that  Sidney Crosby is still not fully recovered from his serious concussion suffered part way through last season. Crosby has stated he will not return to the Pittsburgh Penguins club until he is 100 per cent healthy.

Crosby’s condition has continued to put a heavy focus on the need for the NHL to eliminate headshots and or physical contact to the head.

Hopefully this offseason torrent of heartaches and headaches has now come to an end.

•••

Interested in volunteering some time to your community but not sure how or where?

This Saturday may hold the solution. That’s when the 14th annual Okanagan Volunteer Opportunities Fair kicks into action at the Parkinson Recreation Centre.

This year’s fair theme: Volunteers. Passion. Action. Impact, and the public is invited to attend anytime between10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Once again the popular ‘speed-matching’ component to the fair will return with participants having the chance to learn about various volunteer organizations in their community which they may wish to join. Volunteer Speed Matching is on at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Volunteer speed matching is a high energy approach that has all the characteristics of speed dating with score sheets and a stopwatch. ‘Daters’ move from table to table and the bell sounding every four minutes.

For further information on the fair go to www.kcr.ca or informkelowna@kcr.ca.

 

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