As told to: Joe PackYeah, (missing the Yaroslavl plane crash) was definitely close. I had played with them in 2005-06. I had a good run with them and I’d had a good season. In 2011, I’d had a down year the previous season with CSKA (Moscow) and I really wanted to play a lot of games. I’d sat for four years in the NHL, really, playing 12-15 games a year. I received a call from Yaroslavl asking if I’d come back but I was going to play a shared role with Stefan Liv, who was on that plane, and the salary was a lot less. I wasn’t sure I wanted to move my family back to Russia for a limited role. At that time I passed on the contract and the morning of the accident, my agent called me and said, “Isn’t that the greatest contract you never took?” I didn’t know what he was talking about because I hadn’t seen the news. I still get shivers talking about it. I easily could have been on the plane. I was on their plane hundreds of times the year that I played there and you got comfortable with the fact that it is a risk. In my opinion, the planes at that time shouldn’t have been in the air. I think about it quite a bit as far as appreciating each day and not willing to hide from taking chances. I think I live my life much differently. When I do job interviews, I always go in and speak my mind whereas before I might have played a role that people would expect me to play.
The next morning I got a call from Steve’s brother saying he’d passed the night before. It was at the same time that I was walking home.
Not too long ago, I lost my best friend, Steve Montador. The night he passed I had been out with my fellow employees at MSG and a couple of the guys were asking (about the plane crash) and if I needed to go to therapy and I said, “No, I’m at peace with it, I’m not wrestling with it.” I exited the bar that night – I was staying at my friend Scott Gomez’s apartment in the city – and the biggest snowflakes were coming down. I was listening to Eminem’s “Cinderella Man” and the opening line is, “Technically, I’m not even supposed to be here, so fuck it.” The next morning I got a call from Steve’s brother saying he’d passed the night before. It was at the same time that I was walking home. The eerie timing of it was a reminder of how bizarre it is, the dance that we’re in.
JOE PACK is a freelance writer based in Toronto and a rec-league rent-a-goalie.
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