National hockey team lands last, drinks till back home

Anatoli Jakovlev lennujaama ees pingil lamamas.

PHOTO: Peep Pahv

Estonian Ice Hockey Association president Jaan Mölder says the Dmitri Medvedev led team shamed nation and flag of Estonia at World Championship

After Estonia’s national ice hockey team finished the World Championship 1st division tournament in Donetsk without a single victory and slipped down a notch, and head coach Dmitri Medvedev held quite a vague final speech, captain in two last games Aleksandr Ossipov spoke up: «I’m ashamed! Where are you, champions of Estonia? Did you come here just to celebrate your victory?»

24 hours later, the team landed in Tallinn. The sights at airport were like from a surreal movie. For many, celebrations had evidently not yet ended – truth be told, the party was just gathering steam. For some, this might been the toasting of the gold back home. For others, the drowning of the sorrow and disappointment of the World Championship fiasco.

Ivanov helped off plane

The sober and almost-sober exited the incoming flights door first. Young Estonian men Robert Rooba, Ken Kuusk and many earning their daily bread abroad, pouring their hearts out to represent Estonia in Donetsk, kept their dignity to the end.

Thereafter, one by one, the drunk and drunk-as-skunk guys dripped into the waiting lounge. Anatoli Jakovlev, for one, had great difficulty staying on his feet. A couple of minutes later, he could be seen sitting at a bench in front of the airport. Shortly afterwards, he was flat on his back. Then came the coaches Dmitri Medvedev and Aleksei Ložkin, also a bit tired.

Maksim Ivanov, the chief sinner at the games and removed from last two matches, needed teamwork to exit the plane. Assisted to the baggage carousel, he decided to take time off there, for a longer period of time. After waiting for quite a while, two teammates jumped back through the security doors, into baggage room, helped Mr Ivanov to his feet, and escorted him outside, urgently. The bags were taken care of by Maksim Ivanov’s younger brother Sergei – also in team.

«I’m so embarrassed,» said Estonian Ice Hockey Association president Jaan Mölder, a sad spectator to the tragicomedy. Educated as a physician, he participated in World Championship as team doctor and got quite a clear picture of its inner life. «Tomorrow, already (today – edit.) I intend to have a serious talk with the head coach. Then, we need to summon the federation board and disciplinary committee. There are some serious decisions to make.»

According to Mr Mölder, there is no sense continuing like this, for the behaviour of some team members was vile towards both other players and all of Estonia. «I’m convinced that this was not the first time things like this happened,» he stated.

Initial reports to media revealed that four players were caught drinking before the tournament’s third game with Romania. However, the carousal launched much earlier. The only reason they were caught was that, at half tournament, a third goalkeeper arrived at the team, head coach Medvedev waiting for his arrival at hotel till late at night. Monitoring the movements of the players, he started suspecting that four men were missing. The coach decided to wait it out and, lo and behold! at 3 am they showed up – drunk, and having hooked up a local damsel.

The coach removed Maksim Ivanov from the team till the end of tournament. Sergei Ivanov, Artjom Rumjantsev and Sergei Novikov had to pass one game. «Actually, it wasn’t as bad as they wrote and told in Estonia,» downplayed Mr Medvedev. «It was mainly Maksim Ivanov who violated discipline. And, should I continue as head coach, he will never be on team again. When it comes to the others, I can’t tell for the time being.»

Late at night, party in full swing

In reality, Maksim Ivanov kept the party up even after being removed from the games. Allegedly, he spent the rest of the time in his hotel room. When, Mr Mölder secured a key from a cleaner and entered the room to check the man’s condition, the player initially attempted to hide himself. Seeing it was futile, he claimed to be sick. «Well, sick he was – due to administration of external liquids,» assessed Mr Mölder.

Neither did the other four learn their lessons. The last night before heading for home, party was in full swing…

The talk is that the violations of some players caused tensions in the entire team. Mr Mölder and the team manager Ahti-Kullervo Jõgi praised those playing abroad, especially Mr Ossipov, Aleksei Sibirtsev, Jan Rajevski and Aleksandr Kuznetsov – all employed in Sweden – and the young Mr Rooba and Mr Kuusk. These men upheld the team’s game. Should the mess continue, however, Mr Rooba, for one, would not like to play the team any more. «He plainly told me: playing in a team like this is of no interest to me at all,» the young Estonian star said, according to Mr Mölder.