Two and a half years ago, one of the worst tragedies in sporting history occurred when a flight carrying the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed shortly after takeoff. Forty-three died at the crash site. Only one player was rescued from the wreck alive, Alexander Galimov.

Galimov, a teammate of Alex Ovechkin‘s on Team Russia during the 2005 World Junior Championships, survived for five days before succumbing to his injuries. During his struggle, Ovechkin tweeted in Russian, “Sasha Galimov, you must live!!”

“I played with him when I was a little kid and again on national team, junior,” an upset Ovechkin said to The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera that day. “It’s kind of a scary moment. A whole national tragedy.”

Just as with his fallen brother Sergei, whom Ovechkin honors by stitching his name into his left glove, Alex salutes his fallen friend with a patch he wears on his pads under his jersey.

On Tuesday NBCSN showed video of Ovechkin putting on his warm-ups, the patch clearly visible. It says, “In Memory Of Lokomotiv.” It is stitched over his heart.

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KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in Deadly Plane Crash

September 7, 2011 will be remembered as one of the worst days in hockey history. An airplane carrying the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team crashed just after takeoff from Tunoshna Airport, 11 miles southeast of Yaroslavl in central Russia. The team was on its way to Belarus, where they were set to begin their regular season against Dynamo Minsk.

The aircraft was an Yakovlev Yak-42, an outdated Soviet-era plane that was due to be phased out next year. In Russia the plane is known for its woeful air safety record, and just two months ago 44 people were killed when an Antonov-24 caught fire in midair before crashing in western Siberia. There have been eight fatal crashes in Russia just this year.

According to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, reported Yak-Service, the airliner operating the plane, was ranked last by the European Air Safety Commission. The New York Times reported that the company, founded in 1993, was suspended for three months in 2009 by Russian authorities because of “major safety deficiencies.” The BBC reports that the aircraft broke into two pieces after hitting a radio mast before crashing into Volga river. The Times notes that eight Yak-42s have crashed over the years, killing 570.

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