Since the beginning of 2011, the hockey world has been struck with the sudden passing of numerous players; Mandi Schwartz; former NHLers Derek Boogaard; Rick Rypien; Wade Belak; and most recently the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Hockey Club. On September 7, 2011, the KHL team was on their way to Minsk, Belarus for their season opener when their plane caught fire and crashed shortly after take off. All passengers on the plane were killed and in the blink of an eye an entire hockey team and their crew had lost their lives in pursuit of living their childhood dreams.
The team had its share of former NHL players. Its captain, Ivan Tkachenko, was a 4th round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Tkachenko however, played his entire career in Russia and was heading into his 11th season with Lokomotiv. He was a star on the team and was one of the most recognizable hockey players in the KHL and Russia. His love for the game and his community was undying, but it was his actions behind the spotlight that made him a hero in every sense of the word.
Prior to the tragic day, only those close to him knew Tkachenko for making numerous and very generous donations to various sick kids medical facilities in Voronezh, Russia. His never-ending donations provided exceptional health care and support for the facilities, allowing them to provide proper aid for thousands of sick kids. He was also constantly making further donations to patient’s families in efforts to provide extra care and accessibility to the best treatments available. On top of all of this, Ivan always kept his work quiet and never spoke of his generosity or looked for a place in the spotlight because of his good work.
One of the patients Tkachenko assisted on more than one occasion was 16-year old Diana Ibragimova. He had donated money to her and her family but never disclosed his true identity to the family by asking that his name not be disclosed under any circumstance. Minutes before he boarded the flight to Minsk, in what would be his final moments on this earth, Ivan donated half a million dollars to the cancer patient; again keeping his identity quiet.
Ivan Tkachenko made all of his donations by only using his first name. A masked hero that we idolize growing up in comics and cartoons, Tkachenko was a hero only few had the chance to encounter. His modest and humble way of taking care of his community and saving numerous young lives is an idealization of a man who was grateful for everything he had. He was a fan favourite for his play and heart on the ice and has become a legend for his humanity and care outside of the game as he made an effort to save a life before his and many others were taken away from them.