Ice Hockey: Plane tragedy delays Russian ice hockey season

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The start of Russia's ice hockey league has been delayed in the wake of Wednesday's plane crash which killed at least 44 people including members of the Lokomotiv team travelling to their first match of the season.

The tragedy happened when a Russian jet crashed on takeoff at an airport outside the central Russian city of Yaroslavl,

A police source told Interfax that the stricken plane suddenly started listing to the left and crashed about 500 metres (yards) away from the Tunoshna airport.

"According to the latest data, there were 45 people on board -- 37 passengers and eight crew. Forty-four people died in the crash and one person survived," the official told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Initially the Continental Hockey League (KHL) elected to go ahead with the scheduled first match between reigning champions Ufa and last season's runners-up Mytishchi.

But after details of the full extent of the accident were confirmed the match was stopped with 5 min 16sec remaining before the first intermission.

"In such a situation the players of both teams considered the playing after their friends and collegues died to be absolutely impossible," KHL president Alexander Medvedev announced.

The decision about the new start of KHL season will be announced later.

The local capacity 10,000 crowd at Ufa Arena held a minute's silence in the memory of the players who died in the crash.

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were scheduled to start their new KHL season on Thursday with a match at Minsk against local side Dynamo.

The club, which was founded in 1959, wonthe Russian title in 1997, 2002 and 2003, clinching the league's silver medal in 2008 and 2009.

Yaroslavl also won bronze medals of the Russian league in 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2011.

Czech players Josef Vasicek, Jan Marek and Karel Rachunek were on Yaroslavl's roster this season along with Stefan Liv of Sweden and Slovak Pavol Demitra.

Canadian manager Brad McCrimmon was coaching Lokomotiv this season.

© 2011 AFP

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