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CALGARY – A group of people identified by media and other passengers as members of the Russia junior hockey team have been pulled from a New Years Eve flight from Calgary to Frankfurt, local police said.

Team members were heading home after the IIHF World Junior Championships in Red Deer and Edmonton, which were called off Wednesday due to outbreaks of COVID-19 across multiple teams.

“The Czech Republic and Russia team were pulled from the flight for violating the mask regime. Very strict rules, ”Russian coach Sergei Zubov told Russian newspaper Izvestia.

Eoin Kenny, a passenger on the flight who was in business class, said a Russian official who was sitting next to him was vaping in the cabin and refused to put his mask over his mouth and nose. Flight attendants repeatedly tried to force him to obey the rules, Kenny said, but the man refused.

“He was screaming Russian rock music on his phone. They kept trying to shut it down but it didn’t. I think they were too refreshed, ”Kenny said of Russian officials, speaking from Madrid airport.

“He was definitely someone who should have known how to fly.”

The players of the Russian team, Kenny said, were seated back and at one point another Russian man stepped forward and kissed the passenger who was causing the disturbance.

Kenny said that eventually at least half a dozen Calgary police officers got on the plane and all the passengers were then forced to leave the plane. He said the passenger causing the unrest joined Russian players in the departure area, where half a dozen officers were waiting.

He said the plane took off three hours late, minus the Russian team. He said he believed the Czech team were also forced to stay in Calgary, but the Finnish team were allowed to return.

Calgary Police said in a statement that its airport unit officers responded at 5:45 p.m. to reports of a disruption on an Air Canada flight.

“Upon arrival, officers assisted Air Canada personnel in keeping the peace and disembarking passengers. The passengers were asked to disembark due to a disruption involving several passengers in the cabin of the aircraft, ”the statement read. “Shortly after, most of the passengers were re-boarded and the flight departed. “

The statement did not say who was behind the unrest or whether there had been any arrests, and police did not respond to requests for further information about the incident on Saturday.

Air Canada also did not respond to a request for information about the incident.

The Canada Border Services Agency said in an email that it knew several passengers were pulled from an outbound flight to Calgary on New Years Eve, but said it is not investigating the matter. because it does not impose fines in the application of the quarantine. Legal requirements.

Dr Kathleen Scherf was among a number of passengers who tweeted during the disruption.

“Two hours late for the Calgary-Frankfurt flight. The Russian junior team was in the back, trying to smoke cigarettes, not wearing masks, not listening to attendants, ”Scherf tweeted. “The cops have invaded the plane. We all had to get off while they and their luggage were removed.

The global tournament was called off just four days after the game started after players from three teams confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The IIHF on Thursday announced seven new positive tests for COVID-19. A member of the Canadian team has tested positive. as well as two members of the Swedish team, as well as one member each from Russia, Germany and Slovakia. An on-ice official also returned a positive test.

Two players from the United States and one player from Russia and the Czech Republic have already tested positive, resulting in loss of matches.

Kenny said he didn’t believe the Russian players were drinking, even though they were loud in the departure lounge. He said he thought the Czechs, who were quiet in the living room, may have been mistaken for the Russians because they were wearing similar gray tracksuits.

Kenny said many passengers on the flight missed their connections at Frankfurt due to the delay, including him and his wife, and had to make alternate arrangements when they landed.

He said Air Canada staff were exasperated but apologized.

“It’s good to know that Air Canada has a zero tolerance policy. It’s hard enough to travel these days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 1, 2022.

–By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Lori Ewing in Toronto

The Canadian Press