September 7th, 2011: The horrific disaster that sent devastating waves throughout the hockey world. The plane carrying the players and coaching staff of the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashes, killing all but one (an avionics flight engineer) of the 45 people on board before the team’s first game.
After canceling their participation in the 2011-2012 season to mourn and figure out how to recover, not only are the Lokomotiv back on the ice, they’re also arguably more competitive than ever.
March 17, 2014: In their second season post-crash, the Lokomotiv managed to take down the KHL’s powerhouse squad, Dynamo Moscow, in seven games in the opening round of the KHL playoffs.
Sneaking into the playoffs as the KHL’s Western Conference #8 seed, Lokomotiv drew Dynamo, the #1 seed and two-time defending KHL champs. You also might remember them as Alex Ovechkin’s former team during last year’s NHL lockout.
Each of the series’ first six games went to the home team, leaving a decisive Game 7 to determine who moves on to the next round. As you can see in the highlights above, Lokomotiv pulled a massive upset and handed Dynamo a 5-1 loss on their home ice in Moscow.
While it’s still only a first round playoff victory, it’s also a monumental step forward for a club looking to put the 2011 tragedy behind them and their remarkable return to such a competitive level is one that likely comes a lot sooner than most anticipated.
They’ve still got a lot of work ahead of them if they hope to bring home hardware this season – they’ve got Ilya Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg next in the bracket – but it’s great to see Lokomotiv back to winning playoff series, especially considering who they managed to take down.
I think it’s safe to say a lot of people will be rooting them on the rest of the way.
Also, as a side note: If you haven’t seen the extremely emotional and well-done documentary ‘Rebuilding History: The Story Of Lokomotiv‘ that NBC put together for the Sochi Olympics, you should definitely check it out.