BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - MAY 13: Karel Rachunek (#4), Josef Vasicek (#63), and Jan Marek (#15) were three of the victims of the tragic Yak-42 flight out of Yaroslavl, Russia, that killed nearly the entire KHL club Lokomotiv. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
I spent the evening at a charity dinner here in Saskatoon, and while it helped me get my mind off the tragedy that consumed my thoughts during the day, it also gave me a bit of separation from the non-stop, horrid accounts that made it seem like the end of hockey in the area, and possibly the KHL for the season. I'm maybe not the foremost expert in grief and mourning, but from the experience I do have with it it is important to give some time to just think about what the deceased meaned to you, and be there for the families. It's important to show up, even if you feel helpless regarding the situation as a whole.
That's the reason why the KHL should postpone the start of their hockey season until after the memorial service for the members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. A whole member city, a country, a whole hockey community is in mourning, and needs to be there to express their grief and support to the families of the victims. The gesture won't heal the league, it won't heal the deep sadness that the families will carry, but quite simply, there is no other option. I won't be so bold to suggest that time will heal all the wounds of Wednesday's tragedy, but life will continue in its new modified form. It's important to reflect, to mourn, and to take time away from the regular routine of life.
But then, the league will have to carry through with their season. And the city of Yaroslavl will need a team again. North American leagues have disaster drafts in cases of extraordinary tragedy, and while the KHL is not known to have such a measure, it should follow a similar path. There is some word that the other member clubs are willing to send some of their best players to Yaroslavl for the season. Certainly, the gesture is appreciated, and it is in the right spirit.
Questions will have to be asked about the travel procedures of teams, and while player safety is incredibly important, it must be pointed out that these planes were in widespread public use in the country. Blaming the team's ownership for commissioning this charter plane is probably misguided... if it even is the fault with the plane itself.
In the meantime, I encourage you to read the tributes being put up by Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends. I hope to add more on the lives lost on this site as well.