The sense of shared grief after a plane crash that took the lives of 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players could improve relations with the NHL, Kontinental Hockey League President Alexander Medvedev said Tuesday.
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”I would like very much for this to be no mere surge of emotion, but that we move in step with each other,” Medvedev said.
He plans to soon meet with NHL counterpart Gary Bettman to discuss how the two leagues can cooperate better.
”This was a tragedy for the entire family of hockey. Now we will consider our differences with the NHL in quite a different light,” Medvedev said in a statement on the KHL website. ”Through cooperation, we will ensure that hockey is made better than is possible when we are divided or in isolation.”
The crash Wednesday of a chartered Yak-42 jet in western Russia took the lives of 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players, two coaches, and seven other staff members. Alexander Galimov, the only member of the team to initially survive the crash in which 44 people were killed, died Monday of his injuries in a Moscow hospital.
Relations between the NHL and KHL have been strained in recent years by a competition to sign the best players. Growing prosperity among KHL clubs means they are now more often able to hold onto homegrown players and lure others back from the NHL.
Medvedev also said that the KHL was preparing proposals to create a centralized system of flights using modern Russian and foreign aircraft.
”The league is willing to pay two months in advance for teams’ flights and then settle up later,” Medvedev said.
The Yak-42 that crashed in Yaroslavl belonged to a small Moscow-based charter company. Many KHL teams tend to rely on such companies to carry them on their long flights.
Until Lokomotiv’s forced pullout, the Kontinental Hockey League had 24 professional teams across Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Slovakia. Lokomotiv was a leading force in Russian hockey and came in third in the KHL last year. It was a Russian league champion in 1997, 2002 and 2003.
The KHL also said that the withdrawal of Lokomotiv from the league meant the total number of games to be played in the first half of the season had been revised to 621, from 672 previously. Each team will play 54 matches over the season.