- Associated Press - Thursday, January 6, 2011

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (AP) - Russia’s gold-medal celebration went into overtime. And that prevented them from boarding their flight Thursday morning, a day after they won the World Junior Hockey Championships.

About 30 members of the Russian contingent were asked to get off a Delta Air Lines flight for being unruly as they boarded for takeoff early Thursday morning, an airport spokesman said.

After players and managers spent the day at the Days Hotel across the street _ where a front desk clerk said they were “sleeping it off” _ a team spokesman said the group would fly out in two groups Friday.

A tired-looking Mikhail Zislis, the team’s media officer, was getting little rest, though.

“I cannot sleep because everybody in Russia is calling me asking me what’s going on,” Zislis told The Associated Press inside the hotel lobby.

Later, he refuted Delta’s claim the group was unruly and accused the crew of overreacting, even after being assured by coach Valeri Bragin that he’d keep his players under control.

“I don’t think it was fair,” Zislis said. “They didn’t want to listen to us.”

The delay means the group will be flying home on Russia’s Christmas.

The group had arrived at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport in time for a 6:10 a.m. flight to Atlanta, but was turned back by the flight crew.

“To ensure the safe operation of the flight, the crew of Flight 1266 denied boarding to 30 passengers who were traveling together and displaying unruly behavior,” Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said. “The passengers are being rebooked on a future flight.”

Zislis said team members, all under 20 years old, celebrated their win with champagne, but nothing stronger, in the locker room.

Canadian Press video shows elated players whooping it up later at a hotel bar.

“They were definitely intoxicated, that’s for sure,” bus driver Curtis Hall, who drove the Russians from the Adam’s Mark hotel to the airport, told The Buffalo News. “They were so drunk they had to carry a couple of the guys onto the bus.”

Hall described Russian players honking the bus horn en route to the airport after boarding about 3 a.m. and having to wait around because one player had trouble exiting the bus.

“I was glad to get rid of them,” he said.

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