Team Russia celebrating after their gold medal win
Courtesy: Canadian Press
CHEEKTOWAGA, NY - The Russian junior hockey team is heading back to the Buffalo International Airport this morning, a day after players were removed from a Delta flight for allegedly being too drunk to fly.
According to police, players were thrown off of a Delta flight scheduled to leave Buffalo-Niagara International Airport on Thursday morning because members of the team were intoxicated. At that point, the team and their equipment were removed from the aircraft.
The team was taken to the Days Inn Hotel across the street where they have been waiting for flights back to Moscow.
The Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail Newspaper have video of Team Russia celebrating after their victory. Click here to watch it.
2 On Your Side spoke to a passenger seated just rows behind Team Russia before they were thrown off the plane. Michelle Boryszewski of North Tonawanda was headed to Atlanta on the same flight but says the team was well-behaved, polite and appeared "exhausted". Boryszewski says Russian players were seated on board 10 minutes, many of them with neck pillows already in place, before a security guard boarded the aircraft and told team coaches the team needed to get off the flight. Witnesses say while the team was bewildered at why they were being kicked off, members grabbed bags and got off the plane without any issue. Boryszewski says she, along with many other passengers, were confused as to why the players were kicked off and at no time felt unsafe with them aboard.
A spokesman for Team Russia addressed the media Thursday afternoon, saying that members of the team were drinking after the game. The celebration moved from the arena to the hotel, where the revelers were joined by family and friends. The decision by airline officials to eject the players after some of them had already boarded the plane, he said, was the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.
The team was shuttled to the Days Hotel on Genesee Street after the flight took off without them. The team general manager remained at the airport until late Thursday afternoon trying to arrange new flights out of Buffalo for players and coaches.
A source also tells 2 On Your Side that team officials looked into the possibility of chartering a bus to New York's JFK Airport to catch a flight to Russia, but decided against it.
The Russian hockey team won gold at the World Junior Championship on Wednesday night with a third period come from behind victory over Canada. Sources tell 2 On Your Side the post-game celebrations began in the locker room with a champagne toast, and concluded at the Adam's Mark hotel where the team stayed the night. A couple staying at the Adam's Mark Hotel told Channel 2, that when they arrived just before 5:00 a.m. Thursday morning, team members were in the lobby of the hotel drinking "Canadian" beer. They also say they saw an empty case of beer inside an elevator. The guests also say members of the Russian team were clearly intoxicated, but polite and not behaving in a disorderly manner.
Buffalo Police say they received no reports regarding the post-game celebrations being out of control.
Security sources who worked the tournament games at Niagara University's Dwyer Arena tell 2 On Your Side that team officials were found to be in possession of multiple bottles of Russian vodka during a security sweep and were ordered to remove it from the facility.
2 On Your Side was alerted to the problems aboard Thursday's flight by the wife of a witness aboard the plane who said the players appeared to be intoxicated.
A spokesperson from Delta confirmed to 2 On Your Side's Pete Gallivan that a group of 30 individuals were not allowed to board a flight to JFK Thursday morning, but would not comment on if it was the members of Team Russia.
Not only will the players be celebrating a World Juniors Championship when they return home to Russia, they will also be celebrating Christmas. Friday is Christmas on the Russian Orthodox calendar.