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KHL decides Lokomotiv will not play this season

Kontinental League president Alexander Medvedev held a briefing on the Lokomotiv hockey team’s future participation in the league on Tuesday in Moscow. At the request of Mr. Medvedev, the briefing began with a moment of silence in memory of the players who died in last week’s tragic plane crash.

Following are Mr. Medvedev’s remarks:

“Let me begin by highlighting the main conclusions of my recent meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. First of all, government assistance will be provided to the victims’ families in the amounts listed in the players’ contracts with the KHL. Additionally, given the disparities in compensation among the hockey players, a minimum level will be established for compensation sums. The families of players with smaller contracts will receive sums that are significantly above those stated in their contracts. Additional resources are being allocated for this purpose since the Lokomotiv team could have compensated the families for the contractual sums from sponsorship funds by itself. 

“Second of all, we reached a decision on the rehabilitation of the Lokomotiv team. Based on the recommendation of the team itself and Russian Railways, Lokomotiv will not play in the KHL this season. As a result of this decision, we are currently discussing ways to rebuild the team following the catastrophic loss. President Medvedev very correctly said that hockey-related issues should be addressed by the appropriate bodies and organizations, granting the KHL, the KHL players’ union and the Ministry of Sport authority to make appropriate changes based on the existing team’s structure. The team’s president Yuri Yakovlev recommended the team continue playing in the youth league this season. The team hopes to rebuild the team for participation in VHL (farm club league) games by December. With this in mind, the team also asked for a guaranteed spot in the season’s playoffs. Yuri Nikolayevich also asked if the team could be guaranteed a spot in the KHL playoffs next season. The league is prepared to make this decision, but is unsure whether the team will require the spot next season. This, however, is more a question of time than anything else because I am certain that the team will be back at its prime competing form within a year.

“Lokomotiv’s request to be excluded from the junior draft, to keep and continue training the team’s remaining young players is, in my opinion, easily granted. With this in mind, junior players from the team will still be included in the KHL’s scouting bureau but will not be considered for the draft.

“More complex questions regarding the team’s formation and recruitment efforts given that the team will start in the VHL and later transition to the KHL, await further discussions that will begin shortly. We have agreed to begin preparatory work as soon as the grieving period ends. I believe that we will prepare and agree upon necessary changes to the structures and rules of the KHL, VHL and MHL.

“The KHL already has a new calendar for 23 teams. Like last year, the teams in Lokomotiv’s division will continue to play games against each other. This will also minimally impact the Euro Tour games. We did, however, discuss the subject with Vladislav Tretiak and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov who said they would be willing to accommodate our needs for the Euro Tour.

“In regards, to flights I must highlight that President Medvedev did take into account the fact that athletes travel significantly in Russia, often by air. At this time, the KHL is preparing a recommendation to centralize team flights using the most state-of-the-art international and Russian carriers. I must also note that leading Russian companies, including Gazprom, use Yak-42 airplanes for their travel purposes. These are large and comfortable carriers. However, we now have the opportunity to cost-effectively transition to a more centralized system of air travel. The KHL is prepared to grant member clubs two-month pay advances to cover air travek expenses. I believe that we can transition to this new system of travel within two weeks.

“NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed his sympathy to me following this major tragedy for the entire sport of hockey. Now, even though we have disagreements, the KHL and NHL are coming together to help the sport of hockey recover from this tragic loss. Cooperation is now more important than ever and we hope that it continues even after the initial emotional response to the crash. Gary and I agreed to meet and discuss mutual cooperation in the near future.

“Yesterday, when the KHL season resumed, we all saw how difficult it was for the players to compete. Hockey, like any other high-achieving sport, requires maximum concentration and the players had a difficult time concentrating in light of the psychological impact of this tragedy. Nevertheless, the players persevered and showed that hockey is a resilient and strong sport.

“We all now face difficult times. At the same time, however, we see people expressing their support by attending hockey games with Lokomotiv scarves and rooting for the team. Even the club’s competitors are now rooting for the team and supporting its efforts to rebuild. In Russia, however, only a major loss is capable of deeply touching people. It is important not to lose sight of the feelings we experienced as a result of this tragedy and continue to respect one another in the future. I believe that all clubs, players and fans are behaving appropriately human and this is very important, regardless of how emotions are expressed. Without a doubt, hockey will help us live through this tragedy and that is more important than anything else.” 


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