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|Fans honor crash victims|
|Written by J.P. Hoornstra|
|Friday, 09 September 2011 01:54|
Around the world, the outpourings of fans prove that the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash victims won't be forgotten.ANAHEIM – The temperature here reached the mid-90s a little past noon Thursday. The sometimes restless breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean was still, so you had to lean in close to catch a whiff of the bouquet of roses sitting outside Honda Center. It was exactly the type of calm, perfect day that so many hockey players fall in love with while making a living in Southern California.
Against this backdrop stood a powerful reminder of how sports can unite us. The base of the bronze statue of the Anaheim Ducks' mascot, Wild Wing, was covered in flowers, posters, a candle, and an assortment of homemade tributes to Ruslan Salei. He once fell in love with the perfect weather and bought a home in Orange County. Five years after Salei last wore an Anaheim uniform, it was clear that many here still love him.Some 6,000 miles away in Minsk, a plane carrying Salei and his Lokomotiv Yaroslavl teammates crashed Wednesday. All but one of the players on board – Alexander Galimov, who was left with severe burns – was killed. Former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Karlis Skrastins, and head coach Brad McCrimmon were also among the 43 victims. Like Salei, each left family, friends and fans grieving.
As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it was hard not to note the coincidence of Ground Zero-like memorials popping up around the world. Sunrise, Florida. Newark, New Jersey. Vancouver, British Columbia. Trencin, Slovakia. Zlin, Czech Republic. Jonkoping, Sweden. Yaroslavl.
Nobody needed a reminder of the power of sports to unite. We never want to be united by tragedy. Still, it's not often that people from such disparate corners of the world react with the same passion to the same moment. From Anaheim to Zlin, they knew the players personally. It sure seemed that way, at least.
Among the 261 comments on the Ducks' Facebook page:
“Rusty was a workhorse and a darn fine person - allways (sic) willing to sign an autograph. Prayers go to his family and loved ones.”
“Rusty had to be one of the nicest people to play for the Ducks. The first time I got to get his autograph he joked with me to stop being so nervous when I asked (I was a kid then.) There feels like there's a pit in my stomach now, Rusty was always one of my favorites.”
“Nicest, kindest, generous guy! After The last game Rusty played at Anaheim, he was eating dinner at the club, before it got renovated into the jack Daniels club & when players used to walk through and mingle with fans. My bf had his authentic Salei jersey on the table hoping he'd come out after he was done eating to ask him to sign it. Not only did he come out in the middle of eating his meal, but he also personalized it, took pictures and chatted with us for a while!”
Some thoughts were not meant to be shared. Beneath the candle at the foot of the Wild Wing statue was an unopened envelope marked for “Rusty.” Even if the wind picks up, it won't budge.
Likewise, the memories these men left around the world aren't going anywhere.
Photos by J.P. Hoornstra
|Last Updated on Friday, 09 September 2011 08:55|