- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2011

PITTSBURGH — Tomas Vokoun still looks at Skype on his computer and sees Josef Vasicek’s name — knowing he’ll never get the chance to talk to his friend again. He texts Vasicek’s fiancee, Michaela Jajtnerova, just hoping she’ll be able to recover after the tragic Lokomotiv Yaroslav plane crash on Sept. 7.

“That’s when you feel it the most,” a noticeably emotional Vokoun said Thursday in the visiting locker room at Consol Energy Center, hours before his second start of the season.

Even though this is a game day and Vokoun is seeking to put a rough season debut behind him, the 35-year-old goaltender talked extensively about the friends he lost and the pain he’s trying to move past since last month. The Capitals and Penguins on Thursday night honored the Lokomotiv victims with patches on their jerseys, stickers on their helmets and will auction the jerseys off to provide money for the families affected.

One of those families was Vasicek’s. Vokoun knew several men who were killed in the crash, including Ruslan Salei and Pavol Demitra, but the loss of Vasicek was particularly emotional.

“I consider Josef’s family like my family. It was so hard to see his parents and obviously his girlfriend and everybody,” Vokoun said, speaking about the crash publicly for the first time. “Such a tragedy when somebody dies like that and they’re 30 years old, full of life. He was supposed to be getting married and all that, so it’s not an easy thing to understand.”

Vokoun politely declined to talk the day the crash occurred, but on Thursday he poured his heart out.

“It’s one of those things. It’s never going to be the same, and you just can’t change it,” he said. “For the first little while it’s hard to accept it. You have to deal with it. …

“I don’t think words can describe. I can’t even imagine what their families and loved ones go through.”

Vokoun hope that time helps to heal his wounds and those of everyone else affected by the crash. He can go on the ice and, even for a little while, think about something else.

Vasicek’s fiancee is of particular concern for Vokoun, as he said she isn’t doing very well in the wake of the crash.

“[You realize] that person is never coming back. Your life is never going to be the same no matter what you’re going to do,” Vokoun said. “It’s one of those things when you lose money you can go and work and make more. This you can’t do anything about it.”

Vokoun expects Thursday night to be emotional — and he considers it important, even though it obviously will never bring Vasicek or any of the other victims.

“It’s part of remembering the people who died and trying to help any way we can. This is not going to be fixed. It’s impossible. But we can just try to make it a little bit easier on everybody involved,” Vokoun said. “It’s something that’s in the back of your mind and it’s going to be there for a long, long time.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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