“The darkest day in the history of our sport”: the words of the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation as fans took in the news of the plane crash that decimated the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl squad.
The opening game of the Russian season at Ufa near the Ural mountains was abandoned when the accident was confirmed.
The Lokomotiv team – third last season and three times champions in the last 15 years – would have played their first match in Minsk today.
“We will do all in our power so that top level hockey in Yaroslavl lives on”, said Alexander Medvedev, President of Russia’s championship, the Continental Hockey League.
Ice hockey is among Russia’s most popular sports; many of its are stars household names.
Vladislav Tretyak, one of the best known players from the Soviet era and now head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, said the sport would do all it could to pay its respects to the victims’ memories, and support their families.
This is an international tragedy for ice hockey. Lokomotiv’s new coach, the Canadian Brad McCrimmon was one of several different nationals among the victims. He only took charge this summer; today would have been his first match.
Others included players from Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden and Latvia – where ice hockey is the national sport.
The death of one of the national team’s key players, Karlis Skrastins, brought a tribute from the country’s president who spoke of a “black day for Latvian sport”.
Outside Lokomotiv’s stadium in Yaroslavl, thousands of fans gathered to pay tribute.