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Summer of Sorrow Continues for Hockey

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The NHL and hockey has been pounded with a deluge of shit during this offseason.

Even before the Boston Bruins hoisted the grandest trophy of them all, we learned of enforcer Derek Boogaard’s death at the age of 28. We have come to find out that Boogaard had been struggling with addiction to pain killers for years before his overdose.

While that was devastating enough three weeks ago enforcer Rick Rypien’s body was found. The 27-year old had lost his battle with depression.

And to complete the death triumvirate, the 35-year old Wade Belak was found in his Toronto condo. Like Rypien he too battled depression.

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One offseason, three unnatural deaths of enforcers and a whole lot of questions about the role of fighting in the NHL.

Not so fast, my friend.

Today came word of a plane crash in Yaroslavl, Russia carrying the Kontinental Hockey League team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to Minsk, Belarus for their opening game of the KHL season. Reports are all but two of the 43 onboard the plane survived - the only confirmed survivor is 26-year old Alexander Galimov who has burns to 80% of his body.

Among the confirmed dead was former King Pavol Demitra and former Duck Ruslan Salei.

The Kings released a statement this morning on the tragedy:

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The Los Angeles Kings organization is deeply saddened with the tragic news of this morning’s plane crash in Russia that was carrying the members of the KHL’s Lokomotiv organization, including former Kings forward Pavol Demitra, former Kings prospect Jan Marek and many other members of the NHL Family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the family and friends of those affected by this terrible occurrence.

Early as the story was breaking it was reported that Salei had departed for Minsk the previous day. However once the Ducks got confirmation of Salei’s death early in the afternoon, they released their own statement:

The Anaheim Ducks organization is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Ruslan Salei. ‘Rusty’ was a fan favorite and dedicated member of the Orange County community since being drafted by Anaheim in 1996. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife and three children, along with all of the other members of the hockey community affected by this horrible tragedy.

And if that wasn’t enough, on a personal note, a fellow Kings’ pressbox jailbird co-conspirator Jonathan Montcrief passed away during the postseason. Matt Reitz of View from My Seats put it best:

Alright. I cry Uncle. Enough is enough. I can’t take anymore.

This on the eve of a hockey season in Los Angeles that has the promise of being special with the acquisitions of Mike Richards and Simon Gagné. Well maybe special if that Drew Doughty guy signs a deal.
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This on the eve of a hockey season in Los Angeles that, thanks to the NBA lockout, could have the Kings be centerstage during the winter.

And now we’re all left grieving trying to make sense of this summer of tragedy, perhaps the worst summer the sport of hockey has ever had.

It sure has been a shitstorm. We’re just starting to come out of the deadest period in of the offseason. The Kings will host their Hockey Fest at L.A. Live on Sunday. Training camp starts soon after. Preseason games. Frozen Fury. Then the season begins.

And as fans who have been sitting in the sidelines watching this horror show of an offseason unfold, nothing will be more cathartic than to watch hockey being played once again.