Toronto, Canada – By Gennady Fyodorov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Continental Hockey League (KHL) handed heavy penalties on Sunday to Vityaz Chekhov and Avangard Omsk after their match had been abandoned following an ugly brawl.
Saturday's game in Chekhov, a small town in the Moscow region, had to be stopped after only three minutes 39 seconds when both squads jumped on to the ice to exchange punches.
Officials had no choice but to cancel the contest because the teams did not have enough players left to continue the game.
It was the first time a Russian hockey game has been called off due to a mass brawl.
Vityaz were fined four million rubles ($133,300) and warned they would be thrown out of the league if there were a similar incident while Siberian team Avangard escaped with a one-million ruble fine, the KHL said on their website (www.khl.ru).
The league also fined four players, Canadians Darsy Verot and Brandon Sugden from Vityaz and Avangard's Russian pair Alexander Svitov and Dmitry Vlasenkov, 150,000 rubles each.
In addition, seven players -- Vlasenkov and six from Vityaz, including both Verot and Sugden -- received one-game suspensions and each club was awarded a 5-0 defeat.
Verot instigated the mass brawl after three minutes of play by firing the puck at an opposing player. The referees restarted the match after handing appropriate penalties but were forced to stop it again when another fight erupted a few seconds later.
This time, the match had to be abandoned after officials handed a record 691 penalty minutes to both sides.
Saturday's incident has been another heavy blow to the image of the fledgling league, formed last season with teams from Russia and other former Soviet republics of Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan, after a match between the same two teams in October 2008 ended in tragedy.
Nineteen-year-old Avangard forward Alexei Cherepanov, the first round pick of the New York Rangers, collapsed during the game in Chekhov and later died from heart failure.
The league suspended Vityaz's home arena and also fined the club for failing to provide adequate medical services.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)