TORONTO - Amid the vast legalese of the National Hockey League constitution is Bylaw 16c, to which no team would ever want to resort.
It covers the Emergency Rehabilitation Plan, an insurance policy “in the event of death or disability of five or more active players of any club as a result of a covered accident.”
It would provide the salary structure for the league to re-stock a team that, heaven forbid, were to suffer the kind of disaster that struck the KHL’s Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team, which lost all but one gravely injured player in Wednesday’s plane crash in Russia. KHL has vowed that Lokomotiv will ice a team when play resumes in a few days and will make an announcement regarding its plan after a memorial service on Saturday.
KHL head Alexander Medvedev urged Thursday that the 23 other teams should volunteer as many as three players to give Yaroslavl a pool of at least 40, telling Russian news outlets that at least 18 teams he’s spoken to would be willing.
Meanwhile, native free agents such as Alexei Yashin have already volunteered to suit up. Other UFAs in Europe and North Amrica will likely follow his offer.
The NHL plan, last amended in 1994, requires each team to insure all players on its main roster.
“It says $1 million for each man, but teams can go much higher,” an NHL team executive who is familiar with the details, told QMI Agency. “It’s on a rolling basis, it can be changed weekly and it’s not expensive insurance. But if you’re a team with a lot of star players and payroll, then it’s a higher figure.”
In the event a club lost enough players to make it impossible to ice a competitive club, the board of governors would convene for a contingency plan. The affected team would have the option of buying talent from other clubs, using the insurance money, which the league would facilitate. The commissioner’s office would have a say in the matter if a price for a player were deemed too steep that it would deplete the remaining insurance funds.
The disabled team would have the chance to add some players from its own farm system, but should that still leave it with less than 14 players and one goaltender — a draft would then be in order. The other 29 clubs would be able to protect 10 players and a goalie and the disabled club would pick replacements much like an expansion draft. The key stipulations would be no rookies or players under age 20 could be taken and replacements must be picked only on the basis of positions that needed to be filled on the disabled team.
“It’s meant to make sure that a team in that situation isn’t just given the worst player on every other team,” a former NHL general manager said.
Teams could not lose more than one man and, if they offer a suitable player to the pool prior to the draft, they would be exempt.
Shock waves continued around the hockey world on Thursday as families from 10 different countries, including Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon, prepared for funerals for 43 victims of the accident. The one bit of good news was that winger Alexander Galimov is awake and talking despite multiple injuries and severe burns. He and a crewman were the only survivors after the charter clipped a radar tower on takeoff from Yaroslavl.
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visited the crash site of the doomed Yak-42 and laid some roses during a sombre ceremony. He declared that if the problem-plagued domestic air industry did not improve its standards, that the nation would invest in foreign aircraft and expertise.
In North America, there have been a few close calls for NHL teams through the years, but flying between the 30 cities remains a necessity of the business.
“We keep doing it, and players and management keep travelling together, exactly, because it is so safe,” one league executive said.