On Sept. 7, 2011, an immense tragedy struck the hockey community when a plane carrying the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed, initially leaving only two survivors among the 45 players and coaches on board. Five days later, one of those rescued from the wreck, died, leaving flight engineer Alexander Sizov the sole survivor.
The team went from being a member of Russia's top league to playing in the second-ranked Russian Major League (VHL) beginning in December of 2011 and throughout the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
It's been nearly a year since the devastating crash, and the team is ready to rebuild itself on and off the ice.
An August preseason game in the KHL typically wouldn't attract a large crowd by any means, but when Lokomotiv Yaroslavl took the ice this week, over 3,000 people packed the arena to watch the team come back and recover after experiencing so much sadness.
As so much hope and inspiration filled the rink from supporters, new head coach Tom Rowe realized the impact the team had on its fans and the importance of producing positive results throughout the season, both for statistical and personal reasons.
"It's a great inspiration," he said. "I knew Brad McCrimmon the Lokomotiv coach who died in last year's air disaster very well and we have to ensure we have a very good season.
"We want to make the team and the city proud. There's an incredible fan base, and the team and the organization has a lot to live up to."
Lokomotiv's new, young team was unable to beat CSKA in their preseason matchup, but the players showed a high level of on-ice talent and looked promising to those watching from the sidelines.
Former Blackhawks defender Sami Lepisto is one of the latest additions to the team. He had appeared in 26 games for Chicago last season, including three of six playoff games against the Coyotes.
The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team was establish in 1959 and has since won the Russian Open Championship in 1997, 2002 and 2003.