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How the NHL handles tragedies like the KHL plane crash: the Emergency Rehabilitation Plan

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In light of today's horrifying plane crash in Russia, some are wondering when and how the KHL season might continue. Having an entire team wiped out in an instant is a startling event, recalling similar tragedies which hit the Marshall football team and University of Evansville basketball squad back in the 1970's. As awful as it is to think about, businesses of all sizes need to engage in disaster planning, so they have a guide to operate from in times of need.

The National Hockey League indeed has a plan in place to help deal with such situations should they ever come up. Thankfully, they haven't had to use it yet, but it may prove to be a model for how the KHL should handle this...

Section 16C of the NHL By-Laws covers the "Emergency Rehabilitation Plan" (ERP), which anticipates a major disaster of this scale, and outlines how the league would respond. It activates when an accident causes the death or disability of at least five members of a given team, and governs both the financial and operative procedures to help the league move forward after such a tragedy.

To start with, the league takes out an insurance policy covering up to 20 players on each team at $1 million each, to cover the costs of this ERP. The league, not the particular team, is the beneficiary on that policy. In the event of such an accident, the Board of Governors would meet "for the purpose of bringing about effective rehabilitation of the Disabled Club so as to ensure its immediate and continued operation as a genuinely competitive team in the League."

This begins with the disabled team purchasing players from other clubs in order to re-stock their roster, with those funds coming out of the insurance money. If, after that opportunity to engage in voluntary transactions passes, the Disabled Club has less than one goaltender and fourteen players, the league proceeds with an ERP Draft, which can take that team up to as many as two goalies and 18 players (once they pass the 1 & 14 mark, the process moves on at the Disabled Club's option).

Within this draft, each team around the league can protect one goalie and 10 skaters. In addition, first-year pros and players under 20 by December 31 of the current year are exempted. The Disabled Club is supposed to draft by position to replenish the players lost, i.e. if no goalies were lost, they are not supposed to draft a goalie from another team. Any players claimed in this draft may not be traded until 60 days after the opening of the next NHL season.

Other clubs around the league get $1 million out of that insurance money when one of their players are claimed under this procedure, and they can't have more than one player taken. If they lose a goalie, they actually have a chance to claim a goalie off another team, after those other teams have protected two of their own.

There are a few other wrinkles in there for certain extenuating circumstances, but that's basically how it would work, and I imagine the KHL will come up with a similar model.

Our thoughts right now are with the familes and friends of the lost during this incredibly difficult time.