Lokomotiv Yaroslaval Tragedy

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September 7th, 2011. My first day of my junior year of high school. The worst tragedy in hockey history. The day we lost our friends, fathers, husbands, and brothers. The day Lokomotiv Yaroslaval’s plane crashed on the way to their season opener.

Let me give you some background. My father is a sports agent and represents mainly hockey players in the NHL, KHL (Russia), and in Europe. He has been representing players for as long as I can remember. These “clients” of his are not your typical clients, they are family. They live with us in our house when they are injured, and we stay with them when we visit. My father recruits players as young as 14 years old, who end up becoming stars.

We lost 10 life-long friends in the plane crash. Ruslan Salei, Alexander Karpovtsev, Alexander Vasyunov, and Igor Korolev are among the players I was closest to.

Ruslan Salei: When he played for the Florida Panthers, we would spend Thanksgiving at his house every year, while we were in Miami on vacation. He had two young children, a boy and a girl. And one was just born. It hurts my heart that they will never again personally get to experience what a great guy he was. He was kind, generous, and funny, and an amazing father and husband.

Alexander Karpovtsev: He was a coach on Lokomotiv. His house was 40 minutes from mine and I grew up with his two daughters. We spent every New Year’s at his house in New York.  He was full of life, adventurous, and we loved being with him.  There was never a dull moment.

Alexander Vasyunov: A few months prior to the tragedy, he promised he’d teach me to speak better Russian, while I taught him better English. He was drafted by the Devils three years before, and was playing on and off for the farm team and the Devils. The Devils didn’t give him a solid spot on the roster for the Devils for the next season, and his contract expired, so he signed with Lokomotiv. I have a lot of good memories with him, including blasting rap music in his car, playing soccer, and going to the Spanish restaurant by the Prudential Center after Devils games.

Igor Korolev: He was such a genuinely nice guy. Being in the Korolev’s house this past New Years, with his wife and kids, seemed so empty without him. We missed his fun spirit, but we felt it. He would do anything for his family. His two daughters Anastasia and Kristina are about my age, and we’ve been friends since childhood, even though they live in Toronto. I could say as many nice things about Igor as possible, but no words can express how great he was.

Aside from Vasyunov, because he was very young, the other players and coaches were my dad’s friends and clients, since before their careers began. I would play hockey in my basement with them. Karpovtsev was always the goalie. My dad and his clients would always play poker in the basement and I would sit and watch.

My experience is nothing compared to what their actual family members went through. Some of their wives were pregnant. Some were building a new life with their families. Every situation is different, but everyone’s is interconnected.

This post is not meant to make people sad, rather, it’s to help continue their legacy, and show how greta of individuals they all were.

-Lana Gandler

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This post is not meant to make people sad. I want their legacies to continue to live on, and for the world to remember how great of great of individuals they all were. We miss them very much.

-Lana Gandler

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