Unless you’ve been living under a meteor-sized rock for the past 10 days, you know a 55-foot-long, 10,000-ton mass of space-traversing debris crossed Russian skies and deposited itself in the most explosive of ways over the town of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15.
Aside from becoming home to this intergalactic refuse, the town also is home to Traktor Chelyabinsk, a hockey team for which former KHL all-star goalie Michael Garnett is a regular fixture. The 30-year-old Canadian was in Chelyabinsk when the meteorite struck.
“I was laying in my bed, and woke up to some incredibly loud explosions and a huge shock,” the former Atlanta Thrashers goaltender recalled. “There was one enormous one and then a few little ones. I just jumped out of bed, and then from that point, it was just chaos.”
Like most in the bewildered town, Garnett had no idea what was going on. A meteorite did not seem to be the likeliest of explanations for an explosion in a town that also is home to a nuclear power plant and numerous factories as well as an air base for fighter jets.
“Well, I was just terrified,” Garnett said. "There are always MiG fighters flying over doing training runs so I thought maybe that it was a fighter jet that had crashed into my building, that’s how powerful it was. Then I thought maybe there was a bomb outside of my building, but then when I looked out of the window, I saw a huge streak in the sky.
“I had to get to practice and I wanted to get down to the ground because I didn’t know whether my building was safe or not. I got out of there and drove around my building because I was sure that on the other side there would be a plane crash or something.”
With little to no information on local stations for up to two hours after the meteorite struck, Garnett, like many, took to social media to find out what had happened.
“There was no information. The best information I got was from Twitter. I just went on there and put ‘Chelyabinsk’ in, and all of a sudden, people had started posting pictures online and they were all of the same thing shooting across the sky,” Garnnett said. “It was nice to know what it was, but at the same time, it was scary. We had no warning, no notice, and you had to be there to feel just how powerful it was.”
Thankfully, there were no fatalities as a result of the meteorite. Soon, Garnett's teammates became the best source of information, and some seemingly tall tales became all the more real.
“I got to the rink, and there are guys who live further away and were in their cars and had seen it happen. We got together for a coffee in the dressing room, and everyone had the exact same story. At that point there were no videos available so the fact that everyone had the same story, I was like, ‘Come on!’ But then people started posting videos, and I saw the first one -- I just thought it was incredible,” Garnett said.
With the rink out of action the next day due to suspected damage and a scheduled road trip to nearby Magnitogorsk, Garnett had time to reflect on things. Tax-free salaries, innumerable time zones and now, explosive intergalactic rubble. The KHL is fast becoming the most unpredictable league in the world.