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League solidarity: rivals unite to rebuild fallen team

Published time: September 08, 2011 17:16
Edited time: September 08, 2011 23:22

Yaroslavl : A portrait of Ivan Tkachenko, one of the players from the Lokomotiv Yaroslav ice hockey team thought to have perished in an air crash earlier in the day, is seen flanked by candles and glasses in front of Arena-2000, the team's home venue in Yaroslavl early on September 8, 2011. (AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov)

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The tragedy in Yaroslavl has been a major shock for the ice hockey community, both in Russia and around the world. The KHL seems to have bitten the bullet as the league is determined to save the team in the city and resume the season.

KHL president Aleksandr Medvedev has pledged to the people of Yaroslavl that their team will play again.

"I want to reassure you that we'll do whatever we can so that the highest level of ice hockey in Yaroslavl will continue to exist, and so that the Lokomotiv club will continue to be one of the strongest clubs in the Kontinental Hockey League," he said.

According to the league’s head, all KHL teams are ready to despatch their best players in order to recreate a competitive team in Yaroslavl.

“What’s important is that all KHL clubs have already informed the league that they will do their best in order to preserve Lokomotiv, despite the deaths of the players. The clubs are ready to send their best players to Yaroslavl,” said Medvedev.

“The ice hockey family is mourning the loss of one of its best teams. It was a multinational team with a unique group of players and the international sports community is sharing our grief. It was an outstanding team and our priority now is to build a new Lokomotiv,” Russian Ice Hockey Federation president, Vladislav Tretyak, told RT.

According to the Sport-Express paper a total of 36 KHL players have already expressed a wish to join the new Lokomotiv.

Meanwhile, the KHL’s top executive, Russia’s legendary defender Vyacheslav Fetisov, has confirmed that renowned specialist Pyotr Vorobyev, who led the team to their first historic championship in 1997, has agreed to emerge at the helm of the new team. Until recently Vorobyev was responsible for Lokomotiv’s development club.

Something similar happened in 1979 following the crash of the Soviet champions Pakhtakor, when 17 footballers from the club, along with 161 other passengers, were killed in a midair collision. Back then, players from around the Soviet Union decided to go to Pakhtakor and start a new team to try and help them remain on the sporting map. Additionally, the Uzbek side was protected from relegation for three years.

“I’m sure the clubs will also help the families of the players. It’s our duty to do our best in order that the children (who have lost their fathers) never have troubles in their lives,”  Medvedev also stressed.

The KHL players union and the Yak Service air company – owner of the ill-fated aircraft and the team’s regular carrier – have also pledged to contribute.

Meanwhile, the KHL has officially postponed the beginning of the new season. The date that play will resume has not been announced yet, but no sooner than Monday.

The first game of the season between last year’s finalists Salavat Yulaev and Atlant was interrupted Wednesday during the second period after the shocking news from Yaroslavl. The tragedy has claimed 43 lives so far, including most of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players and staff and the plane’s crew of eight. Two survivors, player Aleksandr Galimov and air-mechanic Aleksandr Sizov, are in a local hospital in a critical condition.