Russia star Andrei Kirilenko was just one of the many, many people directly affected by the tragic plane crash which killed 43 members of a Russian hockey club as the Utah Jazz big man knew some of those who died.
Kirilenko and the Russian national team dedicated their victory Thursday over Finland at the 2011 European Championship to the victims of Wednesday’s crash in which a Yak-42 aircraft crashed to earth, wiping out nearly the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey team.
“ I know, I knew a couple of the guys. This is tragedy,” said Kirilenko after the game.
“It has hit our hearts. Those guys were our friends. In our country all our sports have camps together. We know a lot of guys. Hockey players, football players. It’s a huge tragedy. We pray for them. There’s nothing else we can do. They’re going to be with us anyway.”
Russia coach David Blatt said the victory was for those who lost their lives.
“As sportsmen they are our brothers and sisters. And we played the game to honor them,” said Blatt.
“We played the game with passion and with ethic, as did Finland, and with a way of working hard, demonstrating the qualities of sportsmen that honor their memory. That was what the game was more about than anything else.”
Blatt added that all should more this tragedy.
“On that team were many citizens of the world. Not only just Russians, athletes, coaches, administrators, staff members from different places on the planet,” added the coach.