For years, a season-opening visit to the local church has been a cherished tradition for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. It held even greater meaning this season after the plane crash that took the lives of many of the team's players, coaches and support staff on Sept. 7, 2011.
The visit was just part of a week's worth of tributes for the team and its coach, who following an emotional return to Yaroslavl now has a winning KHL squad fresh off its first home victory.
"It's a real good group. They're willing to do things to win games. Probably one of the more enjoyable group of guys I've coached, to be honest with you," coach Tom Rowe told NHL.com the day after his first Lokomotiv home win. "We had a really good road trip at the beginning of the season. We went to the Siberian region, which isn't an easy place to go, from what they told me."
Rowe heard right.
His club started its regular season with a 5-2 win in Novosibirsk, an Eastern Russian city located about 600 miles from the Mongolian border and 2,115 miles from Moscow. That was followed by a 2-1 victory in Khabarovsk, less than 20 miles from the Chinese border. Through the extreme road trip, Rowe had his team keep its watches on Moscow time, a tough task considering the eight-hour time difference.