We Are Hockey
Yesterday, I decided to finally break down and watch “We Are Marshall.” I don’t know why it took me so long to watch the movie. My friend kept telling me to watch it…then I would understand. She told me that two years ago, but I kept putting it off.
I think sometimes everything happens for a reason. I waited until after the New York Rangers beat the Washington Capitals, now making them the New Jersey Devils’ opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals, before I watched it.
I was also watching this film on the one year anniversary of Derek Boogaard’s death. The night before, I watched “The Final Season.”
Sounds like a lot of symbolism this weekend, right? I actually sat there thinking…why am I watching all of these sports movies?! Oh, there was some strange symbolic…universe is talking…kind of reason.
This being my final season, I started to think back to all of the things that have marked my final season.
Strangely enough, similar to ”We Are Marshall,” we are a hockey community that battled a lot of losses at the start of our season. In “We Are Marshall,” it told the story of Marshall University and how they lost their football team, coaching staff and boosters in a plane crash. It told the story of how Marshall University, a town and a community continued on after suffering such a huge loss.
We started our season with not only the losses of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, but we also lost an entire hockey team in a plane crash in Russia. Every single one of us was affected by that crash.
For the Devils and Rangers, they both lost former players, teammates, coaches and friends in that crash.
Alexander Vasyunov had gone to Russia to play for Lokomotiv for just a little while before he was set to come back and play for the Devils again.
Ilya Kovalchuk was still in Russia when the plane crashed. He was supposed to be on his way back to the States, but instead, he headed straight to the memorial service. He knew almost everyone on that plane. Vasyunov was a good friend of his, and he worked with former Thrashers Assistant Coach Brad McCrimmon back in Atlanta. When he arrived back in Newark at the start of the season, he was quietly suffering the loss of those he knew and had worked with over the course of his career.
Patrik Elias was getting ready to fly back to the States from the Czech Republic, but then his daughter fell at the airport. They ended up having to leave the airport because she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t stop crying. They didn’t rebook their trip back again until a few days later. He had lost a few friends in the Yaroslavl crash. Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek had both played alongside Elias either as countrymen, or as a Devil.
Brian Boyle lost a very good friend. When you stop by Boyle’s locker, there’s always something there to remind you of #94 Derek Boogaard. There are even times that I have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming…because sometimes I still see Boogey’s nameplate up on one of the stalls in the Rangers’ locker room…like he’s still there and he never left.
I’ll never forget the first time I was in the Rangers’ locker room. I watched Boyle and Boogaard giving a few of the kids from the Garden of Dreams Foundation a tour of the Rangers’ locker room. The smiles on their faces…that’s something you never forget. And I’m talking about Boyle, Boogey, the kids and their families…everyone was smiling.
‘Loss’ is the word that defined the start of the season for both the Rangers and the Devils. As they battle across the Hudson these next two weeks, they will all be battling forward in life. They have persevered through the trauma, the loss, and the heartbreak to give reason to fight to win this season.
For both teams, this isn’t like any other team we’ve seen in past years. That’s why they are the only two teams left standing in the East. You can’t even compare them to who they were last year, or the last time they met in the ECF. No, these two teams have concentrated on who they are and what they have left. They have faced great loss and great tragedy. Yet, they have become the best teams they could possibly be all in hopes that they will be the ones to lift the grail in memory of all we’ve lost as a hockey community this season.
It’s a shining testament that no matter how grave our loss, we still move forward. We can still shine no matter how much we’re hurting inside. We can still push through and smile, be happy once again. We can still triumph as a community. It takes one step at a time, one game at a time in order to heal.
So each time you see #94 on the back of a Rangers’ helmet, remember why the Rangers wear it. Each time you see the friends of Karel Rachunek and Alexander Vasyunov skate by, remember all that the hockey world lost when the plane crashed carrying Yaroslavl Lokomotiv.
We carry on for them. We do this in remembrance of them.
WE. ARE. HOCKEY.