It is quite often said that the global hockey community is a tight-knit group.
This was never more evident than September 7, 2011 following the tragic plane crash in Russia carrying theKHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, tragically killing all but one of the people on-board the flight, including the players, coaches and staff of the hockey club.
The reverberations were immediately felt on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as former teammates and friends of those affected by the tragedy began to receive the news of what had taken place. Between the NHL, theKHL and all the other professional leagues in Europe and North America, there were very few spots where someone did not have a connection to the members of theLokomotiv Yaroslavl club.
Since that terrible day, a grassroots initiative called Love for Lokomotiv, created by the wives and girlfriends of NHLPA members all across North America, in concert with spouses of players from numerous other pro leagues in Europe and North America, has been launched to help the families of all those affected by the plane crash.
Needless to say, the tragedy hit very close to home for the wives, girlfriends and families of the members of the NHLPA.
“I think that as families of pro athletes, we really strive to have normal lives at home”, said Brijet Whitney, wife of Phoenix Coyotes forward and veteran NHLPA member, Ray Whitney. “We worry more about our husbands' health on the ice or playing field than we do about accidents that could occur outside of their jobs. I think that's why this tragedy really rocked all of us.”
This is why Brijet did not hesitate when initially approached by Kodette LaBarbera, wife of Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera, KaterinaJokinen, wife of Calgary Flames centre, Olli Jokinenand Erika Lundmark, wife of long-time NHLPAmember and current KHL player, Jamie Lundmark, about assisting with the initiative.
“It's been absolutely amazing, but not at all surprising, that the wives and girlfriends of professional hockey players from all over the world have united on this project”, said Whitney. “KodetteLaBarbera suggested bracelets as a fund raiser for the families of the lost lives on that plane, and within less than a week of the awful tragedy , a group of us managed to come-up with contacts for every team in the NHL along with contacts for the AHL,KHL, SEL, EBL, Nationaliga, SM-liga, DEL, WHL &OHL.”
The women involved in the Love for Lokomotiv initiative are selling bracelets, a sign of remembrance and solidarity, in an effort to raise funds for the families affected. All the money raised will be placed in a fund and then distributed equally to the families from Yaroslavl. Each family will then have the opportunity to decide how to use the money, whether they create a trust fund for their children, make donations to charities or create scholarships in their husband's, sons and/or boyfriend's names.
The group has created a website (www.loveforlokomotiv.com) where anyone interested in helping out in the fund-raising effort can go to purchase the bracelets. The cost for bracelets is $25 for children's beaded bracelets, $50 for adult beaded bracelets and $10 for silicon bracelets.
At the end of the day, Brijet and the other wives were deeply moved by the tragedy and were eager to provide any help that they could. The thought of what the Yaroslavl families are dealing with struck close to home for all NHL families.
“Ray & I haven't told our kids about the plane crash,” offered Whtiney. “I don't think at 9, 7 & 3, they could handle the thought of that happening to their own dad, who in their eyes is always flying somewhere. To be honest I don't know if I can handle it. It's been an unbelievably sad summer in the hockey world & i feel like it makes us realize even more, how precious our family time together is.”