Plane Carrying Hockey Team Crashes in Russia, Killing 43

Also in sports: Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference has hit another snag

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Today in sports: tragedy strikes Europe's top hockey league, Baylor University is the latest obstacle to Texas A&M joining the SEC, and one of the strangest doping cases to date takes another unexpected turn.

  • A plane carrying the Russian professional hockey squad Yaroslavl Lokomotiv crashed into a bank along the Yolga River almost immediately after takeoff Wednesday, killing 43 of the 45 passengers onboard. Team press attache Vladimir Malkov told the Russian sports newspaper Sovetsky Sport that the team's entire roster--including four junior players--was on the plane, which was flying the team to a game in Belarus. "[N]ow there is no hope," said Malkov, according to Google Translate. "The whole team is lost." Russian officials listed player player Alexander Galimo as the only player to survive, while ESPN lists "Dallas Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins, Slovakian national team captain and ex-NHL player Pavol Demitra, Olympic gold medal-winning goaltender Stefan Liv of Sweden and the team's coach, former Detroit Red Wings assistant and NHL player Brad McCrimmon" among the dead, along with seven of the plane's eight crew members. According to the AP's report, "it was sunny and clear at the time" at the time of the crash,  witnesses said the private plane "struggled to gain altitude and then crashed into a signal tower, shattering into pieces." Lokomotiv was travelling to Belarus to play Dinamo Minsk in its season opener. Both squads compete in the Kontinental Hockey League, which features teams from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia. According to Stu Hackel, who writes Sports Illustrated's Red Light hockey blog, "KHL is considered the top professional hockey league in Europe and second only to the NHL in the caliber of play and quality of talent." [Associated Press and ESPN and Red Light and Sovetsky Sport]
  • The nine member schools of the Big 12 conference have all reportedly agreed to wave their right to legally challenge Texas A&M's proposed move to the Southeastern Conference--except for Baylor. Sports Illustrated is reporting that the conference's smallest institution is now keeping its legal options open, an apparent reversal from the school's position last Friday, when Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe sent SEC commissioner Mike Silve a letter stating "that the Big 12 and its members will not take any legal action for any possible claims against the SEC or its members relating to the departure of Texas A&M University...provided, however, that such act by the SEC to admit Texas A&M is publicly confirmed by 5:00 p.m. (CDT) on September 8, 2011." Sept. 8 is tomorrow, and even though the presidents of all 12 SEC schools voted unanimously last night to accept Texas A&M's application, University of Florida president Bernie Machen issued a statement saying that "to consider an institution for membership, there must be no contractual hindrances to its departure." That's no longer the case. And so the brinksmanship begins. [Sports Illustrated]
  • Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were acquitted by an appeals court in Greece yesterday of faking a motorcycle crash the night before the start of the 2004 Athens summer games, in order to get out taking a mandatory drug test. That overturns a May ruling court that the accident never occurred, which resulted in 31 month suspended jail sentences for the two athletes. The New York Times notes that the "the seven state hospital doctors who treated [the sprinters] and two witnesses to the suspected crash" all also had perjury convictions stemming from the case overturned. Outside the courtroom, Kenteris's lawyer said that his client was as "proud as a Greek” about the news. [The New York Times]
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