Earlier today, PHT shared the latest updates revealing that the KHL decided to postpone the beginning of its 2011-12 season to next week and that the league will ask other teams to help Lokomotiv rebuild their roster. Puck Daddy’s Dmitri Chesnokov spoke with KHL vice president Ilya Kochevrin, who illuminated certain details of the plan and also confirmed or denied certain rumors about how the league will handle this situation.
(Sadly, there are still some other things for the KHL to discuss, a grim reality puncutated by the fact that Kochevrin said that bodies are still being identified while families of the victims are being treated by a team of psychologists.)
Earlier today, we passed along reports that the KHL is hoping that its clubs make as many as three of their players available to Lokomotiv’s rebuilding process. Kochevrin explained where teams and the league are in that process and how the league will help Lokomotiv deal with the financial burden.
“Our priority right now is also to keep hockey in Yaroslavl. We can tell you that more than 30 current active players who have played for Lokomotiv in their careers have announced that they want to come to Yaroslavl to play,” he said, “and the League is setting up an option where those players selected by the new head coach of Lokomotiv and will come to play there, their salary will be paid by their current KHL clubs, those where they are under a contract right now. At least for this season.”
You read that right: The KHL’s other franchises will fund the roster for Lokomotiv under the current option for the League.
“This will be done to alleviate the financial burden that Lokomotiv has right now because the team still has to pay out the entire contract of each player, coach and personnel who died yesterday. They just don’t have this sort of a budget,” Kochevrin continued.
Kochevrin said that every team in the league agreed with this process, which is a great thing to hear. Meanwhile, many people might wonder how the KHL will handle air travel in the wake of this tragedy. It sounds like the league is still ironing out some of those details, but Kochevrin provided a little more information on what will be done to try to keep their players safe.
Is it true that the League will now take over the travel arrangements instead of the teams themselves?
“This is not entirely correct. The League won’t take on this responsibility without consent of all the teams. We can only suggest certain arrangements. For example, Aeroflot has already approached us about becoming the transportation vendor for all the teams. The League has a lot of experience working with Aeroflot and other carriers and we will use that experience to ensure the clubs are presented with the best prices and the best quality of service when they travel. The League will also ensure that the price will be affordable to all the teams, because it could be quite high to use Boeing and Airbus planes. And if the price is higher than what a club has been paying before, the League will consider offering assistance or subsidies to these clubs.”
When asked about further safety measures, Kochevrin said that some steps will be left up to the Russian government itself.
As far as season schedule logistics are concerned, Chesnokov confirms that the league will restart its season next week. Instead of canceling the games during the five-day hiatus, those contests will instead be re-scheduled. Kochevrin said that the KHL conferred with the Russian Hockey Federation to make sure that those postponed dates won’t conflict with the Euro Hockey Tour.
KHL teams will wear a commemorative patch on their jerseys to honor the victims. Chesnokov confirmed earlier reports that the crash’s two survivors (including player Alexander Galimov) were transported to a Moscow hospital but remain in critical condition.
We’ll keep you updated on this situation as more details emerge. While it’s an example of a heartbreaking loss, it could also be an example of a sports league persevering through an unthinkable tragedy.
(Chesnokov also passes along this illustration of how the crash might have happened, via SovSport.)