Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Russians don’t care about their most important export. Hockey players. And it has nothing to do with what these professional players do on the ice. They are responsible for the worst aviation disaster in the history of professional sport. A professional hockey league based in Russia treats their players awfully. It is called the Kontinental Hockey League.
Other than the NHL our National Hockey League it would seem to be the most prestigious and best playing hockey league in all the world. While the Kontinental Hockey League pays top dollars in salaries to players, the KHL standards in other areas are down right poor. Evidence of that happened last fall when an entire KHL team with assortment of international stars was wiped out in a plane crash.
It represents hockey’s darkest days. The plane took off and crashed after only a few seconds in the air. Aside from the terrible accident, Why were some of the world’s best players on the same plane at all? To understand take a look at the life of Ruslan Salei who was born in the old Soviet Union but was living the American dream. He made Millions playing hockey in the United States and married a beautiful California blond Beth Ann.
He was a devoted father who would fly back home after games even if it would only give them a short time together. He had cameras installed in every room of his house so he could still be interactive in his families lives when he was away. He was playing his last year as a professional for a new hockey league in Russia. All of a sudden the Russians are offering millions to hockey players and he went for the moneyack.
The Russians are trying to lure the best talent away from America. Trying to get back to the days when the world was afraid of them. They were known for their might in their military, their missiles, their astronauts, vodka and hockey. When the soviet empire collapsed in the late 80’s many of Russia’s best hockey players left for the United States. Players like Sergei Fedorov, Alexi Yashin and Ruslan Salei.
So, by 2008 the soviets wanted their superiority back on ice. Some players like Alexi Yashin have returned to the Soviet ice. Ruslan Salei died in a plane crash in Russia on a day in September known as the darkest day in hockey history. 45 people died in the crash but one member of the flight crew. 37 of the dead were hockey players and coaches.
In Russia Pavol Demitra who played 16 seasons in the NHL was given a big state funeral in a large stadium. In Prague, Stanley Cup champion Yoseph Vasochecif was honored as a national hero. In Laphia, Karlis Skrastins, an 11 year NHL Veteran was mourned by 20 thousand people including his pregnant wife and in California Ruslan Salei ‘s wife told his 3 kids that he would still be watching them but that they would never see him again.
Even more dramatic is that the opposing team showed up to the game. With the entire team dead, they knelt down and prayed to cardboard cut outs of the dead players images. A packed stadium cried.
How can something like this happen to a countries’ heroes? Even though they were paying the players millions, they were flying them in some of the oldest and dangerous planes in the world. There is an underclass of service there that is using planes dating back to the old Soviet Union flown by second tier outfits that offer low prices but very little in safety.
Eight of these old planes have crashed in the past year. While they make up only 3% of the world’s planes they now account for over 40 % of the world’s major crashes making Russia the most dangerous place to fly on earth. Perhaps they should pay less in salaries and spend more on the planes needed to transport their treasured athletes safely.

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