KHL hockey arena burned, robbed by 'terrorists' in Ukraine

HC Donbass

The home arena of HC Donbass, a KHL team based in Ukraine, was burned and robbed by an anti-Ukrainian rebel group.

The crisis in Ukraine has now entered the hockey world.

Druzhba Arena, the home rink of HC Donbass of the KHL, was severely damaged Monday evening and early Tuesday by pro-Russian militants, who burned and robbed the hockey arena that has stood since 1975.

The attack was perpetrated by members of a group that supports the creation of a sovereign "Donetsk People's Republic." The group is pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian, and HC Donbass called them "terrorists" in a statement commenting on the attack.

"Cynical and impudent behavior of terrorists caused indignation of both the hockey community and hockey club Donbass, which represents Ukraine in one of the strongest leagues in the world, the Kontinental Hockey League," the statement said.

The United States government has also  classified the group as terrorists, and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has called them "thugs" who are supported by the Russian government.

The attack was part of a day of ugly fighting in Donetsk, largely at the local airport, during which dozens were killed by Ukrainian forces, the BBC reports.

According to the hockey club, "armed people" broke into the arena, tied up a guard and stole numerous items -- office equipment, television sets, communication equipment, a lock box and a car -- before setting the building on fire. There were no casualties, and the team says they expect the arena to be repaired in time to start the 2014-15 KHL season. HC Donbass will move into a new building, Kalmius Arena, the following season.

HC Donbass was forced to play the majority of their home playoff games this past season away from Donetsk as a result of the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine, though they did play their postseason finale -- a loss to HC Lev Praha in the semifinal round of the playoffs -- at their home rink.

Druzhba Arena was selected Friday to be the host of the 2015 Division I A IIHF World Championship, which is one step below the major World Championship that routinely includes Canada, the United States, Russia and the rest of the world's top hockey national teams. The Division I A tournament is scheduled for April 2015.

HC Donbass is the only KHL club that calls Ukraine home. Two-time Stanley Cup winner and native Ukrainian Ruslan Fedotenko is its captain. Oskars Bartulis and Michael Leighton are two other ex-NHL players who played for HC Donbass this past season.

Andrei Nazarov, the head coach of HC Donbass and the Ukrainian national hockey team, released a statement on the attack.

"The entire hockey community, coaching staff and players of the hockey club Donbass are indignant by the events that occurred this night at the Arena Druzhba, as well as by its cynical arson. Management of the HC Donbass repeatedly emphasized that sport has always been out of politics, but it has not stopped those who carried out the attack. I am sure that despite what happened, the Arena Druzhba will be restored in the shortest terms and the HC Donbass will be preparing for the Championship of the Kontinental Hockey League."

Here's video of the arena burning Monday evening:

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