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Russian World Juniors players escorted from plane by Calgary police

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Police have confirmed to CTV News that members of the Russian World Juniors team were removed from a flight that was to depart Calgary on Friday night.

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Calgary police said members of the airport unit responded to the scene of a disturbance on board an Air Canada passenger flight at approximately 5:45 p.m.

"Upon arrival, officers assisted Air Canada staff with keeping the peace and deplaning passengers. Passengers were being asked to deplane due to a disturbance involving multiple passengers in the aircraft cabin," officials wrote in a release.

Officials would not share details about what led up to the incident, but social media reports suggest that the Russian coach was not abiding by the airline's pre-flight regulations.

Kathleen Scherf, a professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. was also on the flight.

She says there was quite a commotion as the plane was sat on the tarmac for nearly two hours after it was planned to depart for Frankfurt.

“Two Russian coaches were in business class across from me. I noticed right away it was tough for the flight attendants because they had to be told to sit down, not to vape, to stop playing their really loud, hard rock music on iPhones, like out loud, not with any earplugs.”

She says she was watching the flight attendants gather and whisper to one another.

“As we're waiting, cops swarm the plane, like in business class, and then I looked back and I could see they were going down the biggest part of the plane. And so everyone is shocked and all of a sudden, all the flight attendants get into formation. It was like a Beyonce video.”

Then Scherf says airline staff made an announcement over the loud speaker warning passengers they would soon be deplaning.

“The police are on board. There's a security incident. In order for us to be safe, we all need to get off the plane as soon as possible and take all your personal belongings.”

Scherf says there were several passengers telling her that many of the players were drinking and potentially trying to light a cigarette.

“There was open booze on the plane, so I guess they'd gone through duty free and weren't waiting," she said. “In order for the cops to get everyone to safely deplane, these hooligan passengers, we all had to get off.”

She says once they were back in the terminal, she was unimpressed by how the team carried themselves.

“They were still wearing their masks underneath (their chin). They were belligerent. I was staring daggers that usually works with my sons, not so much with the Russian junior hockey team,” Scherf said.

“I think they were just really impolite, rude young people and it doesn't speak well for their country or for their hockey team.”

SWEATER MIX-UP

In addition to the Russian World Junior players, members of Team Czechia were also on board the Air Canada flight, but officials said they were abiding by all of the rules. However, according to a statement from Czechia officials, their players were also told to leave because of an unfortunate mistake.

"Some passengers then complained about behaviour of Russian guys and the crew therefore said that all the people have to leave the plane," said team manager Otakar Černý, "The flight attendants identified the young men in gray Nike sweatshirts as the culprits of the whole situation."

Černý added that since the sweatshirts were handed out to all of the players in the tournament, Czechia players were indiscernible from Russian players.

"Unfortunately, the Czech sweatshirts look exactly the same as the Russian ones, with the difference that the sweatshirts of our players have the sign 'Czech Republic' and the Russian ones 'Russia,'" he said.

He adds he is confident that all of his players were "100 per cent" compliant with Air Canada's rules and COVID-19 protocol.

Calgary police say the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is now in charge of the investigation.

In a statement to CTV News, the CBSA says it is aware of the situation that involved several passengers needing to be deplaned, but there is no active investigation on their part.

"It is important to note that the CBSA does not issue fines in the enforcement of the Quarantine Act requirements; the decision on whether to pursue any enforcement action related to the public health orders rests with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and/or the police of jurisdiction," said Rebecca Purdy, senior spokesperson with the CBSA, in an email to CTV News.

CTV News has reached out to Air Canada and PHAC for further comment.

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