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Hockey wives coming to aid of Lokomotiv victims

by Mike G. Morreale
Dozens of hockey families were touched by tragedy earlier this month when a plane carrying the Lokomotiv Yarsolavl hockey team of the Kontinental Hockey League crashed in Central Russia.

No one will ever forget those lost on the Yak-42 airliner that went down shortly after takeoff on Sept. 7.

In an effort to keep their spirits alive and provide some monetary relief for the families affected, hockey wives

"I wish I could share my email box with everyone. The emails I've been getting from girls all over the place ... from coaches' wives in the Western Hockey League to other girls overseas. It's been amazing." -- Kodette LaBarbera, wife of Jason LaBarbera, Coyotes goaltender

Kodette LaBarbera, Katerina Jokinen, Brijet Whitney and Erica Lundmark are hoping to make a difference.

LaBarbera, wife of Phoenix Coyotes goalie Jason, and Jokinen, wife of Calgary Flames center Olli, have spearheaded a fundraising effort to help via designer bracelets to be sold by wives and girlfriends from each of the 30 NHL teams in every arena throughout the season. Whitney, wife of Coyotes left wing Ray, is helping unite wives and girlfriends from all 23 NHL teams within the United States. Lundmark, the wife of forward Jamie of the KHL, will be spreading the word overseas.

"My husband was fortunate enough to play with Pavol Demitra twice in his career, so we were quite shocked with the news that this could happen to a whole team, never mind a close friend," LaBarbera told "We just wanted to show our support. We're thinking about Pavol's wife at home and all those other families left behind. I know this is our biggest fear as the wife or girlfriend of a hockey player.

"With the guys traveling so much, we're all torn up inside in not knowing what to do. We needed to show these girls and the families that we're here to support them. It doesn't matter that they're still far away, but they need to know we're thinking of them."

Through a partnership with Coyotes Charities and the Arizona Community Foundation, all proceeds from bracelet sales will go to the families of the victims.

The response to the project, according to LaBarbera, has been overwhelming.

"I wish I could share my email box with everyone," she said. "The emails I've been getting from girls all over the place … from coaches' wives in the Western Hockey League to other girls overseas. It's been amazing."

Those wishing to purchase a bracelet can visit the website, The home page of the site has the following message written by Brijet Whitney:

"On Sept 7, 2011, 45 lives were lost in the worst tragedy in professional hockey history. A plane carrying crew members, hockey personnel, coaches and players of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team went down, breaking the hearts of their loved ones near and far. In a united effort to show support for the grieving families, hockey wives and girlfriends from around the world have created this website in hopes to raise money for their dear friends."

The cost for bracelets is $25 for children's beaded bracelets, $50 for adult beaded bracelets and $10 for silicon bracelets. LaBarbera said she has located a supplier to make the bracelets since the demand would be too difficult to maintain for a select group.

"We had a few ideas for the look of the bracelets -- the silicon bracelet says 'Love for Lokomotiv'," LaBarbera said. "We thought the best way to do it was by using team colors from everyone on the plane. We tried to incorporate red, white and blue without making it look too American. There are 13 colors in the beaded bracelet."

The bracelets will be available to fans at Coyotes games beginning Oct. 1 -- the final preseason game at Arena. Bracelets will also be sold on the main concourse at all regular season games throughout the 2011-12 season.

LaBarbera doesn't believe there will be any issues assigning representatives from the 29 other teams in the NHL.

"It's actually been a pretty easy process," she said. "Over the last couple of years, we girls have gotten closer as a group, even though we don't really know each other on a personal level. We've gotten closer through emails and through Facebook, so it's easy to get in touch with everyone."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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