September 7, 2014 marked the three-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslav hockey team. Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov played within the Lokomotiv Yaroslav system and says he was well-acquainted with most of the people who perished in the crash.
Just one week after the crash, Varlamov talked to Denver Post writer Adrian Dater about his feelings about the crash:
"“It was my old team. I played there eight years. And I knew everybody from the team. When it happened I felt like I had to go to Yaroslav and see friends, family and everybody. It was a tough time for everybody in Yaroslav and in Russia. And I am so sad for everybody in Yaroslav.”"
Varlamov added, “I can’t think more about it right now [because of training camp]. Last week was tough for me.”
The plane ran off the runway before completing its liftoff. It struck a tower mast, burst into flames and crashed. The plane was carrying the entire hockey team, coaching staff and a few others en route to the team’s first game of the season.
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Only one person of the 45 on board survived, 52-year-old airplane mechanic Alexander Sizov. During an interview shortly after the crash, he said everyone on board realized the flight was doomed because the plane took a dive shortly after takeoff.
Russian officials eventually reported that pilot error caused the crash. Apparently the pilot hit the brakes hard, which caused the dive. A later autopsy was said to have found phenobarbital in the second pilot’s body, which would have affected his ability to feel his feet.
Lokomotiv Yaroslav chose to cancel its 2011-12 KHL season.
Semyon Varlamov went on to play for the team the following year, during the 2012 lockout. He mentioned that he felt the “ghosts” of those players and coaches who perished in the crash. Overall, though, he said in a video interview to Lokomotiv’s website that he felt comfortable:
"“I feel like I’ve never left the team. Four years have passed like one day. I’m very glad to be back with the team that brought me up, showed me the road to the NHL, opened the doors for me.”"
Across the hockey-verse, everyone’s thoughts and wishes were for those victims of the plane crash on the anniversary.