MOSCOW -- The sense of shared grief following a plane crash that took the lives of 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey players could serve as the basis of improved relations with the NHL, Kontinental Hockey League president Alexander Medvedev said Tuesday.
"I would like very much for this to be no mere surge of emotion, but that we move in step with each other," said Medvedev, who added that he plans to soon meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss how the two leagues can co-operate better.
"This was a tragedy for the entire family of hockey. Now we will consider our differences with the NHL in quite a different light. Through co-operation, we will ensure that hockey is made better than is possible when we are divided or in isolation."
The crash Wednesday of a chartered Yak-42 jet in western Russia killed 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players, two coaches, and seven other team staff. Alexander Galimov, the only member of the team to initially survive the crash in which 44 people were killed, died Monday of his injuries in a Moscow hospital.
Relations between the NHL and KHL have been tested over recent years by a competition to sign the best players. Growing prosperity among KHL clubs means they are now more often able to hold onto homegrown players and lure others back from the NHL.
Medvedev also said the KHL is preparing proposals to create a centralized system of flights using modern Russian and foreign aircraft.
"The league is willing to pay two months in advance for teams' flights and then settle up later," Medvedev said.
The Yak-42 that crashed in Yaroslavl belonged to a small Moscow-based charter company. Many KHL teams tend to rely on such companies to carry them on their long flights.
Until Lokomotiv's forced pullout, the Kontinental Hockey League had 24 professional teams across Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Slovakia. Lokomotiv was a leading force in Russian hockey and finished third in the KHL last year. It was also a three-time Russian league champion in 1997, 2002 and 2003.
The KHL also said the withdrawal of Lokomotiv from the league means the total number of games to be played in the first half of the season has been revised to 621, from 672 previously. Each team will play 54 matches over the season.