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Russian Hockey May Use Centralized Air Transport After Crash

Russia’s top hockey league may switch to a centralized air transportation system in a bid to improve safety after a chartered-plane crash wiped out the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team earlier this month.

OAO Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, may get the contract under a restructured system, said Alexander Medvedev, the Kontinental Hockey League president. The accident killed 44 people and sparked concern that foreign players may shun playing in Russia because of safety issues.

“We’ve received a very good offer from Aeroflot,” Medvedev said in an interview in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East. “It is possible to minimize the risks” of air travel, and the league is preparing an offer for the clubs on a centralized basis, he said.

The chartered Yakovlev-42 plane, carrying eight crew and 37 members of the Lokomotiv team, a three-time Russian champion, crashed during takeoff Sept. 7. The accident initially had two survivors, with 26-year-old forward Alexander Galimov dying five days later from severe burns. Crew member Alexander Sizov, the lone survivor, is receiving treatment in a Moscow clinic.

The crash of the flight, operated by Yak-Service, sparked concerns that the KHL, which has become a rival to the National Hockey League, may be less attractive to players now in North America, sports agents said.

The Russian aviation watchdog revoked the Yak-Service’s license, Sergei Izvolsky, a spokesman for the Federal Air Transport Agency, said Sept. 21.

The KHL plans to rebuild the Lokomotiv team, and the league board will sign off on measures to stimulate the process next week, Medvedev said. The sporting body plans to allow the club to take one extra foreign player for a limited period and to have several picks from among free agents.

“Conditions will be created to attract good players,” Medvedev said. “Already next season, Lokomotiv will have a strong team.”

The KHL president isn't related to Dmitry Medvedev, president of Russia.

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