Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Will Mourn, but Play
Update Sep 12 9am: It has been announced that Alexander Galimov has lost his fight for life and passed away due to the severe burns he suffered during the crash.
Update Sep 10 9am: Despite previous statements, Lokomotiv president Yuri Yakovlev has announced at a press conference that the team will not play this year.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl are determined to see out the season.
They were hit by tragedy on Tuesday when the plane carrying them to their KHL season-opening game in Minsk crashed killing all bar one of their playing and coaching staff including former NHLers Karel Rachunek, Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins, Pavol Demitra and Josef Vasicek and head coach Brad McCrimmon.
And the survivor, Alexander Galimov is in hospital battling for his life with reported 90% burns to his body and major damage to his respiratory system.
But the nature of the tragedy goes deeper, they weren't just hockey players. They were fathers, brothers and husbands.
The KHL season has been put on hold until September 12 and however difficult it will be, Lokomotiv want to be part of it.
Players from across the world have volunteered their services to Lokomotiv, including former player Alexei Yashin and it seems likely that the rest of the league will loan them players so they can play out the season.
Whether they can be ready when the league starts up again remains to be seen but the most important thing right now is the recovery of Galimov.
The hockey world rallied round to lend their support to Lokomotiv and National Hockey League Players' Association Executive Director Don Fehr said: "Everyone within the NHLPA family is deeply saddened by the tragic passing today of players, coaches and staff from the KHL hockey club, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
"The club included many former NHLPA members, as well as many members of the international hockey community. Words cannot express the profound sorrow that this loss has created. Our sincere condolences go out to the friends and families who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy."
Those thoughts were echoed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as he said: "Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world - including the NHL family, which lost so many fathers, sons, team-mates and friends who at one time excelled in our League.
"Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of all who perished."
The worldwide hockey community was also quick to offer their condolences.
"This is a terrible tragedy for the global ice hockey community with so many nationalities involved," said IIHF President Rene Fasel. "Our thoughts and prayers are with family and friends of the victims."
"Despite the substantial air travel of professional hockey teams, our sport has been spared from tragic traffic accidents," Fasel added. "But only until now. This is 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."
But as we, the hockey community, mourn what we feel is nothing compared to what the close friends and family of those we tragically lost in this accident.
The hockey community has rallied and given support to those who have suffered the worst imaginable loss there is.
And they are very much appreciative of the support and messages of condolences handed out.
Bethann Salei, wife of Ruslan Salei, said: "On behalf of the Salei family, I want to express my sincere thanks to the entire hockey community, including all of Ruslan’s friends and fans, for the overwhelming love and support.
"While this is an extremely difficult time for us, the outpouring of affection our family has received has been comforting. As much as Ruslan enjoyed playing hockey, he loved the camaraderie he had with his teammates, the team staffs, and the fans that much more.
"Ruslan was the love of my life, and I’m extremely grateful to have our three beautiful children. He treasured his family life with us, and we miss him dearly."