Unruly Russian hockey team kicked off flight

Russia’s unruly junior hockey team has been booted off a flight at the Buffalo airport while trying to get home after beating Canada to win gold at the world junior hockey championship.

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — Russia’s gold-medal celebration at the world junior hockey championship went into overtime, preventing the team from flying home Thursday morning.

About 30 members of the Russian contingent were asked to get off a Delta Air Lines flight for being unruly after boarding for takeoff early Thursday morning, 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 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.

He said he didn’t know when the team would be able to leave Buffalo.

“I hope as soon as possible because we want to go back to Russia,” said Zislis, who’d shaved his head after the victory as part of a bet with a player.

Russia’s Orthodox Christmas is Friday.

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 on 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.”

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 what appeared to be a bottle of alcohol 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.

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.