Hockey Chief Vows To Rebuild Russian Team After Plane Crash
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MOSCOW — The Russian ice hockey team whose players were killed in a plane crash will be rebuilt in time to take part in this year’s Kontinental Hockey League season, according to the league leader.
All but one of the 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players traveling to Belarus for their first game of the season was killed when their Yak-42 jet crashed on Wednesday.
KHL chief Alexander Medvedev said Thursday that each team in the league should volunteer up to three players each toward building a new Lokomotiv squad. He says that will free up between 40 and 45 players from which Lokomotiv can pick.
“The 18 KHL clubs whose representatives I have managed to speak with have supported this proposal,” Medvedev said in remarks to Atlant Mytischi hockey club’s press service.
As well recruiting from other clubs, Medvedev said Lokomotiv will draw five players from its youth team.
The KHL is an international club league that pits together 24 teams from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia.
Lokomotiv is a leading force in Russian hockey, a three-time Russian League champion in 1997, 2002 and 2003. The team finished third in the KHL last season.
Among those killed in Wednesday’s crash were Lokomotiv coach and NHL veteran Brad McCrimmon, a Canadian; assistant coach Alexander Karpovtsev, one of the first Russians to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers; and Pavol Demitra, who played for the St. Louis Blues and the Vancouver Canucks and was the Slovakian national team captain.
Other standouts killed were Czech players Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek and Jan Marek, Swedish goalie Stefan Liv, Latvian defenseman Karlis Skrastins and defenseman Ruslan Salei of Belarus.
Officials said Russian player Alexander Galimov survived the crash along with a crewmember. Galimov’s condition is said to be critical.
Medvedev’s suggestion of resurrecting Lokomotiv by recruiting players from other teams has a precedent in Soviet history.
In 1979, a plane heading from the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan to Minsk carrying the Pakhtakor Tashkent football team collided with another passenger aircraft, killing 178 people. Seventeen members of the Pakhtakor team were killed.
After the crash, all Soviet topflight sides gave up three players to Pakhtakor so the club could continue playing in the national championship. Pakhtakor was also guaranteed exemption from possible relegation for three seasons.
On Wednesday evening, Yaroslavl governor Sergei Vakhrukov addressed a crowd of some 3,000 mourning fans outside the Lokomotiv stadium and promised the team would be rebuilt from scratch. But that vow prompted anger from some fans at a perceived lack of respect for the dead.
KHL games planned for the weekend have been postponed. Games will resume Monday, the KHL said in a statement on its website.
A memorial ceremony for victims of the crash will be held Saturday at Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s hockey arena.
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