Sochi hockey players start legal battle for pay

MOSCOW (AP) -- Players at the Sochi hockey club that forms a major part of the legacy of last year's Winter Olympics are to start a legal battle over months of unpaid wages. HC Sochi plays in the Kontinental Hockey League, widely regarded as the strongest competition outside the NHL, and features some of the competition's biggest average crowds. But the club has hit major financial problems in its debut season. With players unpaid since January, team captain Nikita Shchitov told Russia's R-Sport agency on Wednesday that the KHL Players' Trade Union was preparing to file an official complaint to prosecutors on the Sochi players' behalf. ''We've got basically nothing left to lose. We're tired of listening to constant promises, so let's have the trade union get involved in this,'' he said. ''We're being told nothing solid. It's just not clear what's happening. There's a feeling that the club has no money and no-one needs it.'' Shchitov said the club had also had financial problems at the start of the season before its sponsors, which include Russian state gas company Gazprom, provided money to cover some of the unpaid wages. Last month, HC Sochi spokesman Dmitry Isaichev told The Associated Press that the players would ''receive everything in full.'' Sochi's roster for the 2014-15 season included two Canadians and two Americans for a debut which ended in the first round of the playoffs. Many of the KHL's mostly Russian teams have experienced financial problems as Russia's economy heads for recession this year. A combination of international sanctions and the low oil price have caused financial headaches for the state-owned energy companies and Russian regional governments which fund most of the KHL's teams. HC Sochi, the only professional sports team to use a Sochi Olympic facility, has been part-funded by both the regional government and Gazprom. There have also been wage delays in other major Russian sports, particularly soccer. The coach of the Russian national soccer team, Fabio Capello, went unpaid for over seven months before billionaire Alisher Usmanov stepped in to clear his back pay.