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a card with my passport information—details already in her possession, but I'm not about
to remind her of that. “Tysyacha shestsot rublei,” she announces. That's our bill—sixteen
hundred rubles, or fifty-four dollars—for two rooms for one night. And we are not getting
any keys until we pay. I pay in cash. Then we still don't get keys but documents—little
cards that evidently give us eventual access to keys. This is where the guard at the elevator
comes in. We walk back into the lobby and hand these small cards to the guard, who is
not all that happy about being distracted from his movie but nevertheless puts the cards in
two wooden slots behind him, and removes from those slots two keys. “Lift,” he says, mo-
tioning to the elevator and returning as quickly as he can to the TV. Sergei and I arrive on
the third floor and agree to meet in an hour, after freshening up. My room is roughly eight
feet by eight feet, with a narrow bed, single window, and scarred wooden floor partially
covered by a fraying Afghan rug. The tiny bathroom is minimalist—a long faucet protrudes
out over a yellowing tub, and the faucet is dual-use, able to swing to the left on demand
and serve as the water supply for the tiny sink. I make use of the amenities to shower and
change, and meet Sergei to begin our day—or resume one that began hours ago in Moscow.
We have a late-morning appointment with the parents of Nikita Klyukin, who fulfilled his
dream of playing professional hockey as a member of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. He died in the
team's plane crash, at age twenty-one. Nikita was born and raised in Rybinsk, and his par-
ents still live there.
T HIS ENTIRE REGION of Russia—the city of Yaroslavl, outer cities like Rybinsk—is still
mourning the loss of the hockey team but trying to move on. During our three-day stop
in this area, Sergei and I wanted to attend a Lokomotiv game. The team obviously has all
new faces but is competitive again. The Kontinental Hockey League—Russia's equivalent
of the NHL—helped by asking other teams in the league to send a great player or two from
their rosters to play in Yaroslavl, which the teams were happy to do. Some local fans did
not support that, wishing instead that Yaroslavl would take just a break from competition
for a few years, develop new talent, honor the dead, and ponder the future more slowly.
But, like after the airport bombing, there was a rush to just cover up the tragedy and get
back to it.
The evening hockey game, we were told, was sold out, and we had no idea how we
would get tickets. We figured we would grab a taxi to the arena and keep our fingers
crossed. As soon as we got into the cab, we knew we had found a man who could help. Our
driver, a chatty Russian in his late forties with trimmed brown hair, had a little doll hanging
from his rearview mirror. It was a hockey player in a Lokomotiv uniform, No. 79, with “Or-
lov” written across the back. Sergei was in the front seat, listening as the driver explained
that Dima Orlov was his son, who plays for the Lokomotiv youth team, the cauldron of
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