PITTSBURGH | According to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, Evgeni Malkin doesn’t ask for meetings with him and general manager Ray Shero much. But that changed last month after the tragic plane crash of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team in the Kontinental Hockey League.
“Right away he’s like, ‘We wanted to do something’ – not only for this game but for the families, for the team, for his loss, for the country’s loss, for hockey’s loss,” Bylsma said.
So Thursday night at Consol Energy Center, the Penguins and Capitals paid tribute to the victims with a ceremonial faceoff and by signing and auctioning off game-worn jerseys with Lokomotiv patches to benefit the families of those who were killed. Mario Lemieux dropped the puck.
“It’s kind of remembering the people who died. Trying to help any way we can,” Caps goaltender Tomas Vokoun said. “This is not going to be fixed. It’s impossible. But we can just try to make it a little bit easier for everybody involved.”
Added Malkin: “We’re one big hockey family and we need help because of the crash in Russia.”
That was the theme around both teams Thursday morning and early afternoon when discussing what promised to be an emotional night for some. Vokoun lost one of his best friends, Josef Vasicek, and several other former teammates.
Alex Ovechkin was close with Alexander Galimov, who survived the original crash but died. Roman Hamrlik knew Karel Rachunek and others. Bylsma played with Ruslan Salei for four years.
As Vokoun pointed out, it’s a tragedy whether someone has connections or not.
“Our hockey families have been touched and you see that response in a lot of different ways,” Bylsma said.
Malkin and Ovechkin took part in a ceremonial faceoff before the game. The whole night, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said, shows what “brotherhood” in hockey is all about.
“Hopefully they raise a ton of money to help the families of everybody that’s been affected by this,” Boudreau said. “It’s a terrible disaster and the one great thing about the hockey world is it’s one big family when it comes down to it, whether it’s the Kontinental Hockey League or the NHL. Our guys can help their guys, and I think it’s great.”
Here’s video of the puck drop: