It's not breaking news that this summer has been one devastating tragedy after another for the hockey world. Derek Boogaard accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs in May. Rick Rypien battled the demons of depression for almost a decade and could not win, when he apparently took his own life last month. Just weeks later, the recently retired Wade Belak also passed away, with reports of mental illness also plaguing him. All three cases tragic and terrible in the hockey world; especially to the families, friends and teammates who knew them best.
The awful summer has continued with the crash of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv plane that claimed the life of every player, staff member and crew member aboard, aside from two that desperately cling to life at this hour.
It's truly been a trying and tragic time for the close-knit family of hockey lately and you'd be hard pressed to find one pro level hockey player that hasn't felt the hurt of losing a buddy. Let alone the common fan, who's taken in all the horror and has mourned for the people and families they don't even necessarily know.
Evgeni Malkin, who's now in Pittsburgh, released two heart-wrenching statements yesterday. One in English, and one more in Russian in his natural tongue.
The English statement, which took some courage for Geno to step up to the mic and say, can be found here, from penguins.com. A transcript is below:
"Wednesday was a sad day for hockey in my country. I lost so many friends and people lost their family members. My teammates and I ask Penguin fans, and all NHL fans, to remember everyone lost in their prayers."
It was easy to see Geno was distraught, his usual happy manner was totally shot. While most North American hockey fans grieved for familiar veterans who passed like Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins, Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek, Jan Marek, Alexander Vasyunov and coaches Brad McCrimmon, Igor Korolev, Alex Karpovstev, it's important to remember the KHL is more than just veterans. A staggering 13 players that lost their lives in the disaster were the same age or younger than Malkin (who was born in 1986). These were guys Geno either played with on national teams, trained with, or kids looked up to him.
As Americans that's hard to bring in to focus. Could you imagine if 13 of Sidney Crosby or Marc-Andre Fleury's friends and peers were suddenly dead? That's what it's like for Evgeni right now. Only he's thousands of miles from home, a stranger in a strange land with no one or nothing to comfort him and nothing that his immense talents can do to change anything.
That seems drastic and sad, but this is a very drastic and sad time in the wake of this tragedy. Malkin also released a statement in his native Russian, which is obviously a lot more free from the burdens of his second language. It is, however, as heart-breaking as you'd expect. (Translation courtesy of Dmitry Chesnokov from Puck Daddy)
"It is difficult to describe with words everything that happened. I still cannot comprehend it. I have a heavy heart… My sincere condolences to all the close ones, parents, wives, children and the entire city of Yaroslavl that supports this team.
"We are all sincerely feeling sorry and sincerely supporting all the close ones, relatives. Any help that may be needed — we will always help.
"All the players who are overseas right now — and I talked with a lot of them — we are all feeling for you, supporting…. This is a terrible tragedy. We have to live through it together. We have to keep together and move on. I know that Russia will get back on its feet and will carry on moving forward."
It's tough times for the hockey world as this tragic summer ends. All told, we've lost 40 great people and hockey players. Children have lost fathers. Parents have lost sons. Wifes have lost husbands. Friends have lost beloved friends.
Despite all the sadness, Geno is right- we have to help out and carry on the best that we can. If we here at Pensburgh find a charity/cause that could do some good (and we likely will soon) we will stand behind it, undoubtedly with the full support of you, our little corner of the hockey world here.
We have no other choice but to do what we can to help. We're all in the hockey family, and we all have heavy hearts right now. RIP to all we've lost lately (including Tom Cavanagh), the hockey world is lesser without you.