Russian, Czech Junior Hockey Teams Removed From Flight After Disturbance

Russian players react after loosing the junior Ice Hockey World Championships gold medal match between Canada and Russia in January 2020. Russia's 2021 team and the team from the Czech Republic were removed from a plane on December 31 after a disturbance prior to departure from Calgary. (file photo)  

The world junior ice hockey teams from Russia and the Czech Republic were removed from a flight on New Year’s Eve after some of the players reportedly violated a mask mandate before the flight departed the Canadian city of Calgary.

Officers responded to reports of a disturbance on an Air Canada flight, according to a Calgary police statement on January 1. The statement didn’t say who caused the disturbance or if there were any arrests.

The Calgary police department’s airport unit “assisted Air Canada staff with keeping the peace and deplaning passengers," the statement said. "Passengers were being asked to deplane due to a disturbance involving multiple passengers in the aircraft cabin."

Police did not provide further information, and Air Canada did not respond to RFE/RL’s request for more information.

The teams were heading home from the junior championships, which were canceled mid-week because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Russian coach Sergei Zubov told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that the Russian and Czech Republic teams were removed from the flight for violating the mask mandate. Russian and Canadian media reported that Zubov was among those violating rules by smoking.

Czech team manager Otakar Cerny said his team complied with all the rules and had likely been treated the same as the Russians because of the similarity of their gray sweatshirts, which had been handed out to all the players in the tournament.

“And practically only for that reason, they threw us into the same bag as the Russians and told us that the entire Czech and Russian expedition could no longer board the plane,” Cerny told Czech media, according to the AP.

Cerny said Air Canada representatives had apologized and arranged a hotel and a flight home on January 1. The Russian players managed to leave on the next flight after the one that had been delayed by the disturbance.

Passengers who were on the flight told AP and Canada’s CTV News that the Russian squad caused the disturbance by smoking cigarettes, vaping, blaring music, and refusing to wear masks. One passenger said the disturbance delayed the flight by three hours.

With reporting by AP, CTV News, and Izvestia

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