This article originally appeared on Nov. 13, 2011.
On Sept. 7, 2011, an unimaginable tragedy struck the hearts of the hockey world.
News spread of a plane crash in Russia whose passengers were the coaches and players of the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. The horrific event claimed the lives of 44 people, including flight crew, and forever changed the lives of family members who will never be able to see the smiles of their loved ones again.
One of the many deeply affected by that day is Penguins center Evgeni Malkin
, who was born in Magnitogorsk, Russia and lost many friends in the crash.
“I knew a lot of guys who played in Russia for Lokomotiv,” he said. “When I heard the news I can’t explain how I felt after. It’s tough to say what I felt. I wanted to help support their families.”
With a sad heart and loving soul, Malkin has been the driving force behind numerous initiatives to help benefit the victim’s families, many of whom are experiencing unthinkable hardships.
In the latest event, Malkin hosted the "Flight Team Lokomotiv Benefit” at Bossa Nova in downtown Pittsburgh Sunday night. Along with Big Dreams Children’s Foundation, the benefit raised money for the widows and children of those lost in that heartbreaking day.
“This is very important for me and I thank everyone who came,” Malkin said. “It’s a big tragedy in Russia. We’re trying to help the families, women and children. I know a couple Russian people who live in Pittsburgh. My friends helped me buy this stuff and we worked together.”
Malkin also had the support of Penguins players, who donated autographed merchandise for auction and attended the event to show solidarity with their teammate.
“My teammates helped me,” Malkin said. “I feel good because they support me. We are one big hockey family.”
“’Geno’ knew some guys and family members that were involved with that, so we’re aware of what he’s doing and we’re behind him 100 percent,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “That’s a great thing they’re doing. We were all pretty saddened by that.”
RELATED ARTICLES>>> Malkin Drives Initiative to Help KHL Families>>> Players and Wives Show "Love for Lokomotiv"
Please visit www.LoveforLokomotiv.com
for information on how you can contribute to a noble cause.
Malkin’s 2010-11 season came to a premature conclusion when he suffered ligament damage in his right knee. Since Jan. 18, he has played in only one NHL game, and he appeared in a mere 6:03 minutes.
Malkin spent an entire summer rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and was prepared to arrive in Pittsburgh with a fresh start, full of motivation and hope. Instead, he came to his adopted county with a heavy heart for his home country.
Still distraught in the wake of tragedy Malkin, always shy when dealing with the language barrier, asked the organization if he could make a statement in English.
Malkin fought through red swollen eyes, stopping a few times to compose himself, to deliver a touching statement: Wednesday was a sad day for hockey and my country. I lost so many friends and people lost their family members. My teammates and I ask the Penguins fans and all NHL fans to remember everyone lost in their prayers.
Malkin visited Penguins general manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma and asked that the organization help him do something to aid the suffering families back in Russia.
“’Geno’ immediately, has deeply been touched by it,” Bylsma said. “Raising money, raising awareness right from Day 1. Geno hasn’t asked for a lot of meetings with Ray Shero and myself in my time here, but right away he was like, we’ve got to do something. Not just for this game, but for the families and for the team, for his loss, for the country’s loss, for hockey’s loss.”
“We talked to Ray and we had a couple ideas to sell bracelets and jerseys,” Malkin said. “It was all of our idea. Not me, it’s the whole team, the Pittsburgh organization.”
Malkin then reached out to his fellow countryman and longtime Penguins rival Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. From the there the two rival teams worked together for a greater cause.
The two teams wore jerseys with commemorative Lokomotiv patches in their Oct. 13 contest at CONSOL Energy Center. The jerseys were then autographed and auctioned off with all the proceeds going to Lokomotiv players’ children and families. Remembrance bracelets were also sold to benefit the families.
“We need to help because it’s very important for me, for all of us,” Malkin said. “I think we’re one big hockey team and family and we need to help because it’s a big tragedy in Russia.”
In the wake of every tragedy there comes hope. The hockey world is a small community. The outpouring of support has brought everyone involved closer together.
The events of that day cannot be changed and the victim's families will never be whole again. But with the efforts of Malkin and everyone who has helped to ease their suffering, hopefully the families can start to heal. For though their loved ones were lost, their spirit will remain forever strong in the hearts and memories of all those they touched during their too short lives.
At the bottom of a landing stood an ice sculpture bearing the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl logo at the top. Below etched into the surface's base were the words:
“YOU WILL BE REMEMBERED.”