Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

League vows to rebuild shattered team

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MOSCOW -- Ice hockey fans wore team colours and lit candles in the provincial Russian town Yaroslavl, where a community has been devastated by a plane crash that killed most of the players for the local ice hockey side.

Talk was of how much the dead would be missed -- and of rebuilding.

One day after a deadly plane crash killed 36 Lokomotiv players and staff, and seven air crew members, thousands of flowers -- most in bouquets of red or white carnations -- crammed the Arena 2000's main entrance.

Hundreds of fans left notes, a few cried, and some 200 walked down a city street, carrying Lokomotiv emblems and slowly clapping their hands.

Aleksandr Medvedev, president of the Russia-dominated Continental Hockey League (KHL), at an impromptu Yarsolavl conference with fans and media, said Lokomotiv would rebuild. Already, Medvedev said, players throughout the league -- which compares with the National Hockey League in skill and level of play -- had volunteered to move to provincial Yaroslavl.

The response, Medvedev said, has been overwhelming, 36 players already having agreed to take the ice for Lokomotiv.

They would have to obtain a release from their current clubs, Medvedev said, adding: "But under the circumstances, I think they will be able to play."

Lokomotiv's ranks will be filled out by the team's youth side and, although there will be little time for training, both veterans and untested rookies will face a special responsibility as they defend the team's red-white-and-blue livery, he said.

Editorials across Russia's eight time zones without exception described the loss suffered by Yaroslavl Lokomotiv as not just a provincial disaster.

"Russian hockey has suffered, probably, the worst loss in its history. We lost a team which was at the very heart of our country and the soul of our hockey," wrote Sport Ekspress, one of Russia's leading sports dailies.

 

-- MCT Information Services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2011 0

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