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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Varly and trainer Steve Saunders. (Photo credit: Power Train Sports Institute’s Instagram page)

It seems like such a long time ago, but a few years back the Washington Capitals would almost always have a Russian on the ice. Not Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Viktor Kozlov, or Sergei Fedorov. It was Semyon Varlamov. At least, when he wasn’t struggling with groin injuries.

Varlamov, who at times looked more like an Olympic gymnast than a traditional NHL goaltender, had the talent to become the franchise’s long-term solution in net. After replacing Jose Theodore and dominating in the 2008-09 playoffs, Varlamov failed to lock down the starting position the next season. Because of injuries.

Varly’s injuries were made worse after rehab starts in Hershey. The next season, Varly battled with Michal Neuvirth for the number-one spot and again would was plagued by the same issues, again making another rehab trip to the Capitals’ AHL affiliate.

The Caps eventually dealt Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for draft picks during the summer of 2011, allowing the Avs to take all of the risk with Varly after his cheap entry-level contract expired. Since then, the Samara, Russia native has found his groove. After averaging 30.7 NHL-AHL appearances from 2008-11 with Washington and Hershey, Varlamov played in 53 games with Coloardo in 2011-12 and 51 in 2012-13 combined with Colorado and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. So what changed?

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Semyon Varlamov Plays Sumo Suit Hockey With Kids

Photo credit: yarreg.ru

The last time we visited former Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov on this site, he was showing off his gracefulness by falling on his heinie after winning the World Championship with Russia. Since then, Varly signed a lockout contract with his old Russian Super League team, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, and has been a total stud. He currently leads all KHL goaltenders in GAA (1.63) and SV% (.951). He’s also got a scintillating 7-2-3 record.

Those superstar numbers, however, hasn’t stopped Varly from being one with his people. Last night, in Yaroslavl, Varlamov participated in a charity circus performance, hosting over 1,000 kids from orphanages around the area. He signed autographs, answered questions from fans, and… dressed up in a sumo suit. That’s not a typo.

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Photo credit: dynamo.ru

In Dynamo’s 3-1 win over Lokomotiv Wednesday, Alex Ovechkin extended his KHL point-streak to nine games with a first period assist on a Leo Komarov goal. But it was Ovechkin’s comments after the game with Sport-Express, where the real fireworks happened.

When asked about his recent interview with the Russian newspaper Vechernyaya Moskva (Evening Moscow) where he said that his “soul was still with Washington,” the Capitals captain revealed that he never said such words.

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Photo credit: dynamo.ru

On Monday Nicklas Backstrom, sporting his new #99 jersey, made his debut for Dynamo Moscow and returned to a familiar spot: centering Alex Ovechkin on the top line. The BFFs clicked instantly.

Backstrom assisted on the first goal of the game, a snapshot by Ovechkin past Lokomotiv Yaroslavl goaltender (and former teammate) Semyon Varlamov on the power play. Ovechkin would add an assist in the third period (and also challenge half of Lokomotiv’s roster to a fight). Dynamo won 3-0.

To the video!

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Photo via liveinbleublancrouge.tumblr.com

Six months ago yesterday, a plane carrying the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl, killing 44 passengers and crew, leaving flight engineer Alexander Sizov as its sole survivor.

The worst disaster in hockey history, the Lokomotiv crash became a solemn end to the summer that had already taken the lives of Derek Boogard, Wade Belak, and Rick Rypien. Questions were raised as to how it had happened and what could be done to prevent such tragedies in the future. Bernard Goldberg of HBO’s Real Sports uncovers some sobering answers.

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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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