Today, the 13th of September, a briefing was given by Alexander Medvedev, president of the KHL. At the instigation of the head of the League, the event began with a minute’s silence in memory of the players and employees of the club who lost their lives.
“I will pass on the main conclusions from yesterday evening’s meeting with the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev. Firstly, the government will provide assistance to HC Lokomotiv in fulfilling all contractual obligations to the families of the deceased players and employees in accordance with KHL regulations. There will be no reductions in the sums to be paid. Furthermore, taking into account the varying values of different players’ contracts, a lower limit of the sum of compensation will be set. For those players on more modest contracts, the bar will be raised significantly. It is specifically for this measure that additional resources will be provided. As for the payments according to existing contracts with Lokomotiv, it should be able to meet these sums at the sponsors’ expense alone.”
“Secondly, the decision was taken about how specifically to revive Lokomotiv. According to the proposals from the club itself and from Russian Railways, Lokomotiv will not be playing in the KHL this season. On the basis of this decision we opened discussions about those measures necessary to rebuild the team. President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev rightly pointed out that questions regarding hockey should be tackled by the relevant bodies. He gave an assignment to the KHL, to the KHL players’ union and to the Ministry of Sport, as part of a program which HC Lokomotiv will put together, to prepare the necessary changes in the KHL procedures. The precise nature of these changes is a matter for the KHL, the players’ union, and the club. Then the proposals from Lokomotiv president Yury Yakovlev were heard. This season Lokomotiv’s youth team will continue playing in the junior league, the MHL. By December the club intends to put together a team to play in the lower league, the VHL. The club also requested that it be guaranteed a place in the VHL play-offs. In addition, Mr. Yakovlev asked that the team could perhaps - and I stress, perhaps - be guaranteed a place in the play-offs in next season’s KHL championship. The League is prepared to take such a decision, but only time can decide whether or not Lokomotiv itself would need this guaranteed place, because I am confident that a year from now the team would have already reached a good enough level for such indulgences to be unnecessary.”
“As for Lokomotiv’s request to be freed from the Entry Draft, so that all the young players who learn their hockey at the club can stay at the club – I think this is easy to implement. All the juniors will nonetheless still feature in the KHL Scouting Bureau’s ratings, but they will not go into the draft.
“More complicated questions arise concerning how to rebuild the team and how to organize this influx of players, especially taking into account that the team will return by playing in the VHL, and only later in the KHL. These questions need serious discussions, which we will begin in the very near future. We agreed with Mr. Yakovlev that we will start the truly productive work only when all the events of the period of mourning are over. I think by the 30th of October we will have drawn up and agreed upon the changes to the procedures of the KHL, VHL and if necessary, the MHL.
“With regard to Lokomotiv playing in the VHL, it will be necessary to ensure that all its opponents get the points scored in these games, but that Lokomotiv itself, bearing in mind it has a guaranteed place in the VHL play-offs and will only join the league in December, will not be awarded any points.
“We already have a new season schedule for the remaining 23 teams. Just like the previous season, teams in one division (where Lokomotiv were due to play) will play extra games against one another. As for the rearranged games, we have shortened the Eurotour windows as little as possible. However, we discussed this theme with Vladislav Tetryak and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, and they said they are prepared to compromise on this.”
“As for the subject of plane travel, I will say that the President of Russia paid special attention to the fact that sportsmen in our country are very frequent flyers. Obviously, the risk factor increases for them accordingly. At this given time the League is prepared to propose to the clubs a centralized regime of flights using only the most modern foreign and Russian aircraft. I will mention again that the Yak-42 aircraft is used by Gazprom, and our veterans’ team flies on it very often and it is a spacious and comfortable plane. However, it is now possible with minimum disruption to move to a centralized system. The League is prepared to give an advance to the clubs of two months’ air fare after which mutual settlements can be made. This agreement not only covers standards of transport, but also the quality of services on board. I think we can move to the new system of flights within two weeks.”
“After the Lokomotiv tragedy I had a call from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who expressed his condolences. The grief is felt by the whole hockey family. Now we can take a new view of all our differences with the NHL. I repeat once again: when we cooperate we can achieve much more for hockey than when in conflict or in isolation. I would like very much for this to be no mere surge of emotion, but that we move in step with each other. Gary and I agreed to meet in the near future and consider how we can further work together.”
“Yesterday, when the KHL championship resumed, all could see how hard it was for the guys to play. Hockey, just as any other sport, demands maximum concentration. In such circumstances it was very hard to play, but in spite of the tough psychological strains the players showed true class – all that is good in hockey.”
“This is a tough time for all of us. All the same, we see that people are going to the hockey, and at the arenas fans of other clubs are wearing Lokomotiv scarves. In Russia, unfortunately, only a huge tragedy was capable of bringing people together so intensely. Now it has happened, we must not lose this feeling of respect for one another which has appeared these last few days. It seems to me that all the clubs, all the supporters, all the players are behaving with humanity, and this is the main thing. How this came about is not so important. That hockey will help us through this grief is something no-one can doubt. And that is what is most important.”