After crash, Dawes welcomes grounding
KHL player from Winnipeg says it's 'nice' not to open season on the road
PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
|Winnipegger Nigel Dawes is playing in the KHL this season after finishing last season with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal’s minor-league affiliate. (QMI Agency file photos)
WINNIPEG - Winnipegger Nigel Dawes’s KHL team opens the season with a three-game home stand.
That’s probably not a bad thing, in light of the plane crash that killed virtually an entire team on Wednesday.
“After a tragedy like this it really makes you sit back and think about the safety and well being of the players,” Dawes told the Winnipeg Sun in an e-mail exchange from Kazakhstan, Thursday. “Kind of nice we don’t have to travel for two weeks.
“Still in shock to be honest with you. It definitely hits home. It just seems to sting a little bit more being in the same league.”
Dawes and fellow Winnipegger Dustin Boyd decided to give the KHL a try this season, after having trouble making it full-time in the NHL.
Both signed one-year deals with Barys Astana, in Kazakhstan, after finishing last season with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal’s minor-league affiliate.
Dawes, who’s been on one road trip with the team, so far, says until it’s clear what caused the plane to go down, it’s too soon to worry about travelling this season.
“The planes seem to be a little bit older than ones in North America but at the same time I never felt worried or less safe flying on them,” the 26-year-old said. “If it was a malfunction or something else ... this can very easily happen on any flight anywhere in the world.”
One of the victims of the crash, Karel Rachunek, was a former teammate of Dawes’ with the New York Rangers.
Some reports have painted Russian air travel as particularly risky, citing accounts from former KHL players and coaches.
“They do get a bad rap for some things,” Dawes said. “All the bad stories get passed around and very seldom do people want to talk about the good ones. I came here open-minded and to be honest I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.
“Things are definitely different here culture wise and I think it’s hard to compare because we have different standards and are used to different things coming from North America. To the Russians this is normal.”
Since the New York Rangers made him a fifth-round draft pick in 2003, Dawes has bounced from New York to Phoenix to Calgary to Chicago and, finally, to Montreal.
He spent the better part of three straight seasons (2007-’10) in the NHL, but found himself mostly back in the AHL last season. A late-season trade sent him from the Atlanta Thrashers organization to the Habs, and in just 19 games with the Bulldogs he scored 14 goals and added 14 assists.
At 26, he was ready for a change.
“The cities and living and food have all been better then expected,” Dawes said.