Please note this is meant to be from a hockey perspective and not a political lecture. Also, my views are my own. Yes, I’m aware other countries do awful things.
I’ve really struggled with the Ukraine invasion. I try not to be political online, but this one feels personal. I’m not Ukraine nor have I ever been there, yet it’s been eating at me for a few weeks. Something just isn’t sitting right with me.
Quick backstory for you:
In 1968, Russian tanks rolled into Prague, Czechoslovakia. They took over. They didn’t leave for roughly 20 years. Many Czechs left because of this. Jaromir Jagr wears ‘68’ for this very reason. A lot of other not so famous Czechs left too, many came to Canada around 1980. After 12 years of political oppression and no end in sight.
I know this because I’m one of them.
Back then, you didn’t plan to move — you got on a train/plane/car and didn’t tell anyone you weren’t coming back (they could be arrested). You left your stuff behind. You went somewhere ‘west’ and eventually ended up in Canada and declared refugee status. Six months later, your family back home would hear from you that you are safe in Canada. You show up and go on social assistance, don’t speak English and have young kids. Good luck, you’re free from your country which you loved before it was taken over. No one asked if we wanted Soviet tanks downtown.
Here is the Petr Svoboda story. Watch the first ten minutes, or at least from minute four to minute ten for just the Petr Svoboda story. His story is not unusual. It was pretty common. Not all of us were first round NHLers though.
So fast forward to today. Russia is in Ukraine. They have invaded. It’s not good.
Our social media lights up with yellow and blue, ‘I stand with Ukraine’ and everyone calling Putin a mad man. The Russians pretty quickly get their World Junior Tournament cancelled. Their World Hockey Championship is cancelled too. They are also removed from the IIHF and can’t compete anymore (along with Belarus). So the Worlds this Spring will have 2 less teams (presumably Austria and France will move up from lower division). That World Juniors REDO in Alberta this summer will also not have the Russian team participate. They were kicked out of the Paralympic games. The Davis Cup. World Cup qualifying. Basically, all the major sporting events (some of which they already weren’t allowed to play as ‘Russia’ because of other sanctions that were broken).
This week, in Winnipeg, they had a beautiful opening ceremony where they sang the Ukraine anthem. I’d watch it all. Very well done.
Then came the first goal of the game:
Scored by a Russian player. It just didn’t sit with me. A night where we celebrate Ukraine heritage in Manitoba and support the Ukraine people starts with a Russian scoring for the home team.
Then the CHL announced that they won’t allow Russian or Belarusian players to be drafted this spring.
At 3pm EST the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CHL) will announce that Russian and Belorussian 16 & 17 year old children would be banned from the upcoming draft. I am Ukrainian born and want peace. I do not believe banning teenagers for something they do not control is the answer— Dan Milstein-Hockey (@HockeyAgent1) March 2, 2022
In online hockey circles a LOT of people were opposed.
We should not blame the kids!
It’s that mad man Putin.
In 1968, it was a different mad man.
There is always a mad man.
Czechs have mad men. So does Canada. So does Ukraine. Mad men are everywhere. They just don’t always get to run the country and make decisions.
Alexander Ovechkin is a big Putin guy. Supports him. This happens and he was pretty vague.
Here is what he said:
“I would say it’s a hard situation,” the Washington Capitals left wing said at a Friday news conference. “I have lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine. And, it’s hard to see another war. I hope it’s soon going to be over and there’s going to be peace in the whole world.”
“Well, he’s my president. But, how I said, I’m not in politics. I’m an athlete,” Ochevkin replied. “How I said, hope everything’s going to be done soon. It’s a hard situation right now for both sides. Everything, like how I said, everything I hope is going to be end, and I’m not in control of situation.”
“Please, no more war,” he urged. “Doesn’t matter who’s in the war. Russia. Ukraine. Different countries. I think we live in a world like we have to live in peace and a great world.”
For the record, I believe Ovi when he says he doesn’t want war. I don’t think Putin wants war either. He wants surrender.
Here was Hasek’s reply (click and read ALL of it):
What!? Not only an alibist, a chicken shit, but also a liar! Every adult in Europe knows well, that Putin is a mad killer and that Russia is waging an offensive war against the free country and its people. The NHL must immediately suspend contracts(contin)https://t.co/BQnQaf76L7— Dominik Hasek (@hasek_dominik) February 26, 2022
At first, it seemed like a crazy suggestion to me. Same with banning Russian kids from the CHL draft. Yet, something hasn’t sat right with me.
Petr Svoboda had to leave his family and whole life behind because of similar acts. If he stayed, he wouldn’t have been drafted in Round 1 by the Habs. His choices were leave his family or not get drafted in the NHL. Imagine what Hasek’s HOF career would’ve been like if he could’ve come to the NHL younger?
Lots of Ukrainan people are leaving behind their lives right now and they didn’t get a choice. Lots of hockey players have recently terminated their contracts and left the KHL. Markus Granlund and Harri Sateri from the Finnish Olympic Gold medal team for instance. They are currently unemployed hockey players because of this Russian invasion. Jari Kurri removed Jokerit from the KHL. Dynamo Riga removed their team too. I somehow doubt the Ukraine hockey league is playing right now?
My point? A lot of NON Russians that are NOT politicians, soldiers, or anything else, are being very adversely affected by this.
Here is a great story of a Ukranian tennis player leaving the tour to go back home:
Emotional & compelling interview.— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) March 3, 2022
Ukrainian tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky returns to fight the Russians, leaving his wife & children behind.
Is he prepared to sacrifice his life?
Listen to his answer: pic.twitter.com/eMwy0dUg7r
Note: the number one ranked tennis player in the world is Russian. The Ukrainan one had to leave the tour to defend his country. So because the Russians invade Ukraine, Ukrainan tennis players lose points and the Russian ones gain points? Something doesn’t sit right with me.
Like I say, I’ve been very conflicted by this. Something about JUST blaming Putin and let’s not involve the Russian hockey players seems tone deaf to me? This action has affected a LOT of hockey players (two KHL teams closed early, KHL players terminated contracts, World’s need to be reformatted, so do World Juniors) and athletes. Russian invasions have changed lives — mine included.
The Washington Capitals were allegedly not allowing Ukraine flags into their arena. This poster is very anti Russian and Caps. That isn’t lost on me. Nor is the retraction AFTER social media went off on this.
You may note that the Caps biggest star is Ovechkin. While we sing the Ukraine anthem in Winnipeg we ban its flag in the US capital? Why do you think there is controversy in Washington?
I hope every Caps fan shows up with a Ukraine flag for their next game. I hope the NHL mandates Ukraine flags on helmets or jerseys in support, just like we did for Humboldt.
I noticed several Oilers with Ukranian flags on their helmets on the weekend. Let’s see which Russians are not politicians. Let’s see which Russians don’t support war. Let’s see which ones don’t think Putin is mad. I think it’d be telling.
Czechs like myself and Svoboda (which means ‘freedom’) had to leave our countries for fear of Russian persecution. The people of Ukraine are doing it as I type this. Maybe it’s time Russians started leaving their countries for the same reason? This isn’t a one time occurrence.
I’m positive it’d be easier for a millionaire like Ovi to move his family to America today than it was for my parents during a cold war to move to Canada in the 1980s.
I know the city of Edmonton will have Ukraine support for their game on Wednesday against the Caps. Maybe an anthem? Maybe some flags? I hope so but I’m beyond dismayed at yet another tone deaf NHL move. I’ll be skipping that game and I never miss Oil games. Here is Ovi’s Instagram handle as a parting thought. We will be playing a guy who doesn’t want war, but has his instagram photo side by side with the guy causing the war. Something doesn’t sit right with me.
Few more parting thoughts. KHL and NHL no longer have a deal.
NEWS: The #NHL notified the KHL on Monday that it has officially severed all ties and communication with Russia's top hockey league.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 8, 2022
The MOU between the leagues has been suspended, which will make signing Russian free agents a little trickier. Details:https://t.co/bakATNVPTk
Some thoughts on speaking out.
Poll time. Please note I am only asking about NHL players from Russia (prominent athletes in the spotlight):
Should the NHL ban Russian Players?
This poll is closed