Russian World Junior Hockey Team Kicked off Flight for Not Complying with Mask Policy

Erin WalshJanuary 1, 2022

EDMONTON, AB - JANUARY 05: Maxim Groshev #28, Ilya Safonov #24 and Roman Bychkov #7 of Russia celebrate a goal against Finland during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game at Rogers Place on January 5, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Members of Russia's World Junior hockey team were removed by police from a New Year's Eve flight from Calgary, Canada, to Frankfurt, Germany, for causing a disturbance, according to Michael Rodriguez of the Calgary Herald

Several passengers on the flight tweeted about the incident, alleging members of the Russian team were "trying to smoke cigarettes, not wearing masks, not listening to attendants." 

In addition, the Russian team's coach allegedly tried to vape on the plane, and was listening to Russian rock music on "full blast." 

"Two Russian coaches were in business class across from me," Kathleen Scherf, a passenger on the flight, told CTV News. "I noticed right away it was tough for the flight attendants because they had to be told to sit down, not to vape, to stop playing their really loud, hard rock music on iPhones, like out loud, not with any earplugs."

The incident resulted in everyone on board the flight being deplaned. Scherf added members of the Russian team were still wearing masks below their chin once they were back in the terminal. 

"I think they were just really impolite, rude young people, and it doesn't speak well for their country or for their hockey team," Scherf said. 

In addition, the Czech Republic World Juniors team was reportedly kicked off the flight. However, some on Twitter said the "team was removed from the flight by mistake," per the Calgary Herald. They allege the Russian team only caused the disruption. 

Robert Záruba @robertzaruba

The cabine crew was unable to distinguish the inscriptions "Russia" and "Czechia" on the same gray IIHF sweatshirts. AirCanada apologized for the expulsion of the Czech team and, at its own expense, secured the hotel and tickets for the next plane.

The Finnish World Junior team was also reportedly on the flight and was allowed to reboard the plane after a delay of more than three hours. 

Russian coach Sergei Zubov said in a statement to a Russian newspaper that his team was kicked off the flight for not abiding by the mask policy. 

"The team of the Czech Republic and Russia was removed from the flight for violating the mask regime. Very strict rules," Russian coach Sergei Zubov said in an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia (h/t Calgary Herald). 

In a statement on Saturday, the International Ice Hockey Federation, which is in charge of the World Junior Championship, said it was "gathering further information on this incident from the relevant authorities and will refer the incident to the IIHF Ethics Board to determine if the Russian National Team's actions violated the IIHF Ethics Code. Upon the IIHF Ethics Board decision, the incident will be referred to the IIHF Disciplinary Board for sanctioning."

The 2022 men's World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta, was canceled on Dec. 29 after three games resulted in forfeits due to positive COVID-19 cases. The cancellation marked an end of 44 straight years of the world U20 men's tournament.