Emotions flow at remembrance of Lokomotiv tragedy

Family members of those who died in the Lokomotiv accident lay flowers at memorial in Yaroslavl,...

Family members of those who died in the Lokomotiv accident lay flowers at memorial in Yaroslavl, Russia, September 7, 2012. (RANDY SPORTAK/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:59 PM ET

YAROSLAVL, RUSSIA - Vera Korolev is a widow because of the Lokomotiv disaster.

And as much pain as she feels, the wife of former NHLer Igor Korolev -- one of 44 people killed as a result of a plane crash one year ago -- knows she's part of a tragedy that's incredibly far-reaching.

"It's like ripples on the water," she said after a long, hard day on the anniversary of the crash in Yaroslavl which wiped out the Lokomotiv hockey team.

Many of those who have spent the past year feeling their emotions bob up and down like a cork in the waves were surrounding her Friday in this Russian city 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

In the middle of the ripples were the wives, girlfriends and immediate families of those lost -- 37 players, coaches and team staff -- Korolev was an assistant coach -- plus seven air crew. Many gathered to spend the day supporting each other Friday, continuing to build a bond shared out of the sadness.

Further out, in the smaller rings, were the friends and former teammates, including the dozens who skated in a game at the Lokomotiv's home, Arena 2000 Yaroslavl, which was sold out Friday on a night when both the 1972 Summit Series and the 1987 Canada Cup battles also were honoured.

Even further out, but not to be forgotten, were the multitudes of Lokomotiv fans, fiercely proud of their city and team, which was a definite contender for the Gagarin Cup, the KHL title.

Those fans showed their support throughout the day, with a mass at the cathedral at the Yaroslavl Kremlin, prayers at the cemetery, a march to the arena and, most of all, visits to the crash site on the banks of the Volga River.

A steady stream or mourners -- many carrying flowers to go with their heavy hearts -- visited the site near the village of Tunoshna, near the airport.

Memorials were covered in flowers, team scarves were wrapped around fence poles. Two large hearts decorated one monument.

It was impossible to not be moved. After all, those crash victims are gone with all the joy of the future no longer possible.

Think about how many daughters won't have a father to give them away at their wedding.

Think about how many sons won't have a father to teach them to play the game they loved.

Think of the spouses, suddenly thrust into a life where they must have dual roles.

"We were together so long. We built our lives together," said Vera Korolev, who travelled from their home in Toronto -- they became Canadian citizens -- for the anniversary. "Now, I don't have him to share that life with."

Only a world wanting to gather and share the emotion.

"The team will never be forgotten," said Alexei Yashin, who played three seasons for Lokomotiv. "You can't bring them back, but the memory will always be with us."

More people than you realize. More than you can count.

Carlin McCrimmon, who lost her father, Brad, in the disaster has a new tattoo. (Which, by the way, was something the long-time NHL defenceman known as The Beast wouldn't have approved of since he hated tattoos.)

The ink on Carlin's side is written in Russian and reads: "Our Team. Forever."

Friday in Yaroslavl, we discovered it's a bigger team than you can imagine.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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