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MOSCOW, September 12 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will hold a meeting on the future of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl ice hockey club the first team of which was killed in a plane crash last Wednesday.
The press service of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, taking part in the meeting will be head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretyak, the leaders of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), of the Lokomotiv club, its sponsors, as well as the Yaroslavl region officials.
The meeting is expected to discuss how not only to restore the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, but also to preserve it as one of the best clubs in the KHL.
“Taking into account that it was really a favourite team in Yaroslavl, and also in our country, because it was the champion several times and took other prizes, it is necessary to think about how to revive the potential and I think that it exists,” Medvedev said on Thursday at a meeting of the emergency response headquarters in the aftermath of the air crash. “In this regard, our hockey league should do all that is necessary together with those who helped develop the team,” the president said. “After parting with the people it is, of course, necessary to think about the support measures, I mean not only material but also the kind of support that would enable the club to work in the coming years, given the tragedy that has happened,” Medvedev said.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a brief meeting on the subject when he attended the ceremony of paying the last respects to the ice hockey players killed in the plane crash. Having paying tribute to them, the prime had a brief meeting with sports professionals, which was attended by Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Tretyak, President of the Kontinental Hockey League Alexander Medvedev, head of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel, Russian Minister of Sports and Tourism Vitaly Mutko, Chairman of the Board of Directors of KHL Vyacheslav Fetisov and RF presidential adviser Arkady Dvorkovich.
The Yakovlev Yak-42 plane, carrying the Lokomotiv team was on its way to Belarus to play a match against the Dynamo Minsk team, crashed near Yaroslavl on September 7. Of the 45 people who were on the plane, only two survived: hockey player Alexander Galimov and steward Alexander Sizov. Doctors are now trying to save their lives.
The whole Lokomotiv team - 37 people – was aboard. It comprised sportsmen and coaches from Russia and seven other countries - Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Sweden, Belarus and Ukraine.
Lokomotiv was one of the strongest and most popular teams in Russia. Three times it became the champion of the country back in those years when there was no KHL yet - in 1997 (then it was called Torpedo), as well as in 2002 and 2003.
In the new league, bringing together Russian and foreign teams, Lokomotiv also played the leading roles. The Kommersant daily reported that the club, which has always been an example of an organic blend of athletic style and combination play, competent selection and intelligent work with youngsters (in terms of productivity its school was among the best in Russia), was among the top favourites in the championship this season.
The tragedy has affected not only Russia. On the list of passengers of the ill-fortunate flight there were some foreigners. This summer, the position of the club’s head coach was taken by Brad McCrimmon, who had long worked as an assistant coach at Detroit Red Wings. In the off-season, the team noticeably reinforced its composition. Lokomotiv acquired Czech Jan Marek, the world champion of 2010, the star of Dallas Karlis Skrastins, of Latvia, Swedish goalkeeper Stefan Liv, the rising star of Russian hockey Alexander Vasyunov, of New Jersey ... Among the dead there were Josef Vasicek and Karel Rachunek, who were the leaders of the Czech national team, Pavol Demitra, of Slovakia, and Ruslan Salei, from the national team of Belarus. The club’s management spared no money to buy players, hoping that this season the club would win a fourth national title. The ice hockey club Lokomotiv, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda, was in fact a team of the world. Russian Ice Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretyak on Wednesday announced that Yaroslavl’s Lokomotiv should be revived soon “as a monument to the perished team.”
The loss of the hockey club brings back the memories of a plane crash of 1979, which killed Tashkent’s soccer club Pakhtakor, of the USSR’s top league. Then the accident was blamed on an air traffic controller’s error, which caused two aircraft collide in the sky over the Dniepropetrovsk Region of Ukraine. Pakhtakor, too, was on the way to Minsk.