Thursday’s Washington Capitals game against the New York Rangers will be overshadowed by a deepening crisis on the other side of the world. Late on Wednesday night, Russia invaded Ukraine in a multi-pronged attack that included missile attacks on Ukrainian targets.
As the world has looked on in horror, some of the hockey conversation online has focused on Alex Ovechkin and his earlier support of Russian president Vladimir Putin. In 2014, Ovechkin posted a photo labeled “Save Children From Fascism” when Russia annexed Crimea. In 2017, Ovechkin participated in a propaganda website called Putin Team (website here), which Kremlin sources said later was not Ovechkin’s creation. Ovechkin has long been friendly with Putin and has said he has Putin’s phone number. When Ovechkin and Nastya Ovechkina wed in 2017, the couple received a wedding gift from Putin.
Given his history of conspicuous support for Putin and his status as the world’s most famous Russian athlete, Ovechkin was requested for access by the team’s beat reporters. Ovechkin has not been made available yet, but he will speak on the topic in the near future.
Ovechkin’s family, including his wife, sons, and parents, are currently in Russia.
The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell wrote on Twitter:
Expecting Alex Ovechkin to be available to media in the coming days. He was requested this AM, but Caps want to keep the focus on tonight’s game vs NYR.
Ovechkin wants further time before speaking on Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Ovechkin’s wife, kids, mom + dad are in Russia.
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir added:
Alex Ovechkin was requested but not made available to reporters by the #Caps this morning. Sounds like the expectation is that he’ll take questions at some point soon. His wife, kids and parents are in Russia. My guess is that he wants to be concise when he speaks.
The two stars of Thursday’s game, Ovechkin and Artemi Panarin, are both linked to Putin, albeit in different ways. Panarin supported opposition candidate Alexei Navalny before Russia’s last (sham) election and has publicly criticized Putin. In February 2021, Panarin took a leave of absence from the Rangers after a Russian website published a story that alleged the hockey player had beaten up an 18-year-old girl earlier in his career.
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