The Continental Hockey League (KHL) championship has been suspended until early next week following a deadly plane crash on Wednesday – but HC Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which lost most of its lineup in the tragedy, is likely to stay in the competition.
“Having made the decision about postponing the start of the KHL championship, we are now in the process of discussing new dates for games,” Alexander Medvedev, KHL president, was quoted as saying by Sovietsky Sport.
He added that all games scheduled to take place through the end of this week have been suspended.
The KHL regular championship was scheduled to start on September 8. The match for the Opening Cup, between Salavat Yulayev and Atlant was stopped on Wednesday when the news about the Lokomotiv catastrophe came in, and is to be rescheduled.
KHL officials insist that Lokomotiv should be able to stay in the competition, even though the majority of its lineup and Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon were killed in the plane crash as they were headed to Minsk for a KHL game against local Dinamo.
Most likely, Lokomotiv’s lineup for this season will be made up by players loaned by other teams.
“KHL management is deeply sorry about the tragedy and believes that the team Lokomotiv should be preserved and restored,” Medvedev told Sovietsky Sport. “We suggest that all clubs delegate two to three volunteers, preferably graduates of the Yaroslavl club’s school or its former players.”
Medvedev said he has already discussed the idea with representatives of 18 KHL teams, and they all support it.
“Lokomotiv’s new head coach will have a list of 40 to 45 players, and he will be able to choose a good squad. Besides, five players form the youth squad will be playing, like it is the case at CSKA.”
Moscow’s HK Spartak is among those clubs which supported the initiative and it is waiting for KHL to come up with a procedure for delegating players to Lokomotiv, Spartak’s general manager Andrei Yakovenko told Gazeta.ru. Some 36 players from various teams have individually expressed their willingness to step in, Sport Express reported.
Pyotr Vorobyov, who currently coaches Lokomotiv’s youth squad, could become the team’s new head coach, Vyacheslav Fetisov, KHL’s chairman of the board, was quoted as saying by Sport Express.
Over the last years, Lokomotiv was one of the top Russian hockey clubs. The players were champions of Russia in the 1996/1997, 2001/2002 and 2002/2003 seasons, runners up in the 2007/2008 season, and won bronze in 1997/1998, 1998/1999 and 2004/2005. Since the Russian championship was replaced with the KHL championship in 2008, the Yaroslavl players were runners up in 2008/2009 and bronze winners last season.
Among those who died in the plane crash, in addition to Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian players, were Swedish goalkeeper Stefan Liv, Slovak veteran forward Pavol Demitra, Czech players Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek and Germany’s Robert Dietrich, who joined the team before the season.
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