Russian juniors booted off plane
Russia's gold-medal celebration at the world junior hockey championship went into overtime, preventing the team from flying home Thursday morning from Buffalo, N.Y.
Delta Air Lines officials asked about 30 members of the Russian contingent to leave for being unruly when they arrived early Thursday for the flight, an airport spokesman said.
The team was "sleeping it off" at a hotel Thursday afternoon, a person at the front desk of the Days Hotel near the airport said. A team spokesman said the group would fly out in two groups Friday.
A tired-looking Mikhail Zislis, the team's media officer, was getting little rest, though.
"I cannot sleep because everybody in Russia is calling me asking me what's going on," Zislis told The Associated Press inside the hotel lobby.
Later, he refuted Delta's claim the group was unruly and accused the crew of overreacting, even after being assured by coach Valeri Bragin that he'd keep his players under control.
"I don't think it was fair," Zislis said. "They didn't want to listen to us."
The delay means the group will be flying home on Russia's Orthodox Christmas.
The group had arrived at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in time for a 6:10 a.m. flight to Atlanta, but was turned back by the flight crew when they got to the plane.
"To ensure the safe operation of the flight, the crew of Flight 1266 denied boarding to 30 passengers who were travelling together and displaying unruly behaviour," Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said. "The passengers are being rebooked on a future flight."
Coach Valeri Bragin appeared in the hotel lobby about 1:30 p.m. ET and signed an autograph for a fan at the front desk.
"I don't know what happened," he said when asked about the scene at the airport.
He would not say whether players had been drinking.
"They were definitely intoxicated, that's for sure," bus driver Curtis Hall, who drove the Russians to the airport, told The Buffalo News. "They were so drunk they had to carry a couple of the guys onto the bus."
Hall described Russian players honking the bus horn en route to the airport after boarding about 3 a.m. ET at the Adam's Mark hotel and having to wait around because one player had trouble exiting the bus.
"I was glad to get rid of them," he said.
Russia overcame a three-goal deficit in the third period to stun Canada 5-3 in the gold-medal game Wednesday night. It was the country's first gold medal since 2003.
An hour and a half after the upset win, several Russian coaches and trainers came on the ice — one holding a bottle of what appeared to be liquor and others sipping from paper cups — to pose for pictures in front of the scoreboard that had been lowered to ice level after the game.
The players, all 20 years old or younger, had left the ice, though some of them were later spotted partying and drinking with other members of the Russian contingent at the bar in their hotel. They celebrated with frequent chants of "Beat Canada!" and "Russia! Russia!"
Airport spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said after leaving the flight, the group headed to the baggage terminal to collect their belongings, which were taken off the plane.
Wild on-ice celebration
Tournament officials had no immediate comment.
The Russians enjoyed a wild on-ice celebration once the final horn sounded, players throwing their gloves and sticks in the air as they jumped off the bench to mob goalie Igor Bobkov.
The celebration eventually spilled over into the media interview area, where team captain Vladimir Tarasenko and teammate Yevgeni Kuznetsov hugged and chanted "We're champions! We're champions."
The Russians proved to be the comeback kids during the 11-day tournament. They reached the final by overcoming third-period deficits to win their previous two games.
They weren't counted among the favourites in a tournament that featured Canada and the defending champion United States. Russia was also coming off an embarrassing sixth-place finish last year.
With files from The Canadian Press