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Russian squad blamed after flight drama

Members of the Russian and Czech Republic world junior ice hockey teams were removed from a New Year’s Eve flight, with fellow passengers saying the Russian squad caused the disturbance by smoking and refusing to wear masks.

Calgary Police said in a statement on Saturday that airport officers responded to reports of a disturbance on an Air Canada flight on Friday.

The team members were heading home from the world junior championships that were cancelled on Wednesday because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

“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 told Russian newspaper Izvestia.

Czech team manager Otakar Cerny said his team was likely coupled in with the Russians by the flight crew because of the similarity of their gray sweatshirts.

“And practically only for that reason, they threw us into the same bag as the Russians and told us that the entire Czech and Russian expedition could no longer board the plane,” Cerny told Czech media.

“Air Canada representatives apologised to us and at their expense arranged a hotel and a flight to Frankfurt at the same time a day later. They also assured us that we would not fly the same flight as the Russian hockey players.”

Eoin Kenny, a passenger on the flight who was in business class, said one Russian official who was seated near him was vaping in the cabin and refused to put his mask up over his mouth and nose.

The flight attendants tried over and over to get him to comply with the rules, Kenny said, but the man refused.

“He was blaring Russian rock music on his phone,” Kenny told The Canadian Press from the airport in Madrid. “They kept trying to get him to turn it off but he wouldn’t. I think they were over-refreshed.”

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