Seriously folks, I halfway expected Crosby to retire yesterday. That’s how bad things have been going in hockey land this year. While I did call him an “arrogant son of a @$%*” for still going through with the press conference, I was glad to hear it was business as usual with him, and not anything more. If he had pledged to hang up the skates, I would’ve asked the question “How much more can fans take to be invested in this sport?”
Or are we already at that point?
Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak weren’t just run of the mill players to the fans. In the case of Boogaard and Belak, they were fan favorites. Belak was off to a roaring start to his second career, and Boogaard was in his most lucrative contract since joining the NHL. Rypien was about to start fresh with a new team in a new city with a rabid fanbase.
The KHL is looked at as a second chance league for some of the Eastern European players who either aren’t ready for the big stage, or play a more finesse friendly game and look to hone their skills. For guys like Kyle Wellwood and Evgeni Nabokov, it was a place to get rediscovered. For players like Josef Vašíček, Pavol Demitra and Karlis Skrastins, it was a place to play close to home. Demitra and Skrastins were natives of Slovakia and Latvia, respectively, and both were in the twilight of their careers. As a team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were looking to build on last year’s campaign which saw them win the Tarasov Division, and posted the best record in the Western Conference.
At 8am, I check my twitter feed via my phone before rolling into my morning routine. I check down, and see a tweet from Dimitry Chesnokov, who was already one of my favorite journalists (best interviewer in hockey), mentioning a plane crash carrying an entire Russian team. I roll over. It doesn’t settle in. I am often this irrational in the morning. When it does set in, it’s rough.
Hockey fans, as a whole, get it… at least the real ones do. While sure, there would be tears flowing if Crosby had retired, but not like this. As a culture, the brotherhood that exists between the players, coaches, and even amongst the fans is very strong. Even in the non-traditional areas such as ours here, it’s special. When it comes to human life, there’s no sense in weighing the talent of the player that’s lost too early . He’s a human being. He had a mother. He had friends. He might have had children. He had teammates. He had coaches. He made an impact on others.
So we move forward, somehow. Forty-six members of the fraternity of hockey will not be on Earth for next season, but I doubt any of them will be forgotten.
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