Ratto: New low in hockey's offseason of tragedy

September 7, 2011, 6:23 pm
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Sept. 6, 2011


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Ray Ratto

The members of the international hockey village will rise as one tomorrow to send an angry middle finger to the summer of 2011.Today, though, its just blank looks and full eyes and a sense of bewilderment.The crash of the Russian jet carrying a KHL hockey team and killing at least 43 people has the same crushing effect on those who live within and beside this sport that the other great sporting tragedies of the era have. It just leaves a person slack-jawed and silent, without meaningful words to say even in condolence. There is just an overwhelming stupefaction at the enormity of the tragedy.According to CSN Bay Areas Brodie Brazil, who spoke with aviation experts conversant with the accident, it appears the plane lost its No. 1 (left) engine on takeoff, either to mechanical issue or birdstrike. With only two engines and full fuel on takeoff, the plane could not climb, rolled and apparently struck a radar antenna, probably lost parts of a wing and crashed in the Volga River approximately 1,500 to 3,000 from the airport boundary.One Sharks draft choice, Daniil Sobchenko, has been confirmed as one of the dead, but this isnt about which players who played for what teams have been killed. The tragedy is in its vastness because this transcends team affiliations.That is because hockey is a double-knit community in which everyone knows everyone else, and seemingly nobody slips through the cracks. Everyone has a story, and there is always someone about to tell it. It isnt quite the factory of the nameless and faceless that other sports in their greater size can claim. It is, for good and ill, an immense and interconnected industryfamily.RELATED: Russian plane crash claims 43, many former NHL players
Thus, Sobchenkos fate has the same effect in the Sharks offices as Brad McCrimmons, or Ruslan Saleis, or Pavol Demitras. Just as Wade Belaks death and Rick Rypiens and Derek Boogaards deaths for different reasons did earlier this summer, these deaths hit everyone in toto, not piecemeal.This isnt a blow to the emblem on the front of the jersey, then. It hits at the very heart of every player and every front-office person who has been around for more than a few months. How many people did McCrimmon touch in his 30 years more or less in the game, or Demitra in his 20-some-odd, or Salei, or Josef Vasicek or Karlis Skrastins?Eventually, all of them, is the correct answer. Which is why today is such a knee to the stomach for the entire industryfamily because everyone was hit by the news, a one-in-all-in experience that makes it worse, and better, because nobody evades the pain, and everyone needs a post upon which to lean.Tomorrow, there will be the anger, the rage that comes of a nightmarish summer without context or explanation. People were still trying to sort out the details of the Boogaard, Rypien and Belak deaths, even trying to lump in the death of a fourth, former Shark Tom Cavanagh, back in January.The crash, though, makes it something else entirely, something far larger, and sorrow can only last so long. Eventually, rage takes over, and the sport rises to shake its fist as a prelude to more profane expressions at a summer made in hell that cannot end soon enough.Ray Ratto is a columnist at CSNBayArea.com.

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