Hockey players remember gigantic loss for the brotherhood

Wayne Gretzky greets Russia's Igor Larionov after their exhibition ice hockey game in St....

Wayne Gretzky greets Russia's Igor Larionov after their exhibition ice hockey game in St. Petersburg, September 5, 2012. (Alexander Demianchuk/REUTERS)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

YAROSLAVL, RUSSIA - During his NHL career, Igor Larionov played 921 regular-season games and 150 more during the playoffs.

And that was after he spent 11 seasons in Russia's top league.

Throw in all the international play and tournaments, not to mention all those games as a youngster, and consider his dedication to hockey.

But nothing felt like the game Friday night at the Arena 2000 in Yaroslavl.

Larionov said it was "an honour" to take part in a game held on the one-year anniversary of the plane crash that caused the death of 37 members of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv club.

"It's hard to believe it has happened," Larionov said. "It still brings some chills to your body. An emotional night. I played a lot of games and (this one) is tough. When you know the spirit of (the Lokomotiv) team is here, for us and the fans it's ... a very emotional night."

It was an emotional anniversary for the hockey world.

The KHL didn't hold any games in honour of those who perished.

Instead, the city was host to a game featuring a lengthy list of legends -- Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Mark Messier, Larionov, Alexander Mogilny, Pavel Bure and on and on -- and legends on hand in the form of players from the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.

The players gathered for a flower-laying ceremony at the arena in the morning, and many had a tie to the Lokomotiv players and coaches who died.

"We're all brothers in one way or the other because we love the game of hockey," Messier said. "When you see something like that happen, it's tough for everybody all across the world."

Brad Park was a mentor to Brad McCrimmon, the Yaroslavl coach. Park was a Boston Bruins veteran when McCrimmon arrived in the NHL as a rookie in 1979.

"After a year, you accept it more," Park said. "But it's a shame anything like that would happen, to any athletic group.

"It hits closer to home because it's a hockey team -- part of the brotherhood.

"Plus my friend."

But they know their sadness doesn't compare with what others are going through.

"The most suffering people are the families, the kids and the wives and the parents, the brothers and sisters," Viacheslav Fetisov said. "Maybe this will give them a little bit of relief, but it's only one year since and it's still in the memory."

Added Ken Dryden: "You just hope that in time they find strength and they find peace, and they're able to take with them all of those good, strong qualities that were there in their husbands and fathers."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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