NOTE: As I was writing this story, I was struck by the fact that most related stories didn't include the name of the volcano in Iceland that is causing these problems. Well, it turns out that it goes by the name Eyjafjallajoekull. . . . Now you know why many stories don't mention it by name. . . . As of late Sunday, the eruption was responsible for the cancellation of more than 63,000 flights.
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Ash from the Icelandic volcano that began erupting Wednesday is playing havoc with hockey people who have been in attendance at the IIHF U-18 world championship being played out in Minsk and Bobruisk, Belarus.
The championship, which features teams from 10 countries, including Canada, began Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Rosters feature numerous players eligible for the 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts. There also are WHL teams with people there, scouting prospects for the CHL's 2010 import draft.
Among those in attendance for at least some of the tournament was Stu MacGregor, the Edmonton Oilers' head scout who lives in Kamloops.
Shortly after arriving at the tournament, MacGregor said he was enjoying “the borscht in Belarus.”
It wasn't long, however, before he had ash on his borscht. Originally scheduled to fly home later this week, via Stockholm and London, MacGregor chose to change his plans.
As he put it in an email to The Daily News: “I was stuck in Minsk.”
So, on Saturday, he and former NHLer Kent Nilsson, who now scouts Europe for the Oilers, hired a driver to take them the 400 kilometres from Minsk to Riga, Latvia, from where they took an overnight ferry to Stockholm, arriving Sunday morning.
MacGregor said he plans on watching a few games in Stockholm this week and is scheduled - “Hopefully??” he wrote - to fly home, via London and Calgary, on Saturday.
“If this ash cloud clears some,” he added. “Otherwise I wait in Stockholm.”
There are hopes that European air traffic will start to return to normal today. But that depends on volcanic ash clearing from skies over at least half the continent.
However, there are reports that some countries are maintaining their air space will be closed through today and into Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Bob Green, the general manager of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, and former NHL player Kent Hawley, who scouts out of Ontario for the Oilers, are among the hockey people in Minsk who are waiting, and hoping, for things to clear up.
As MacGregor wrote: “Travel agents and airlines are suggesting you remain on your original routes.”
“Or,” he added ominously, “it may take longer.”