By Ian Oland
On Wednesday, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan discussed how the team’s Russian players are doing and how the team is trying to help them after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has impacted their lives.
Generally describing Russian NHL’ers as being in an impossible situation, MacLellan explained why players haven’t come out against Vladimir Putin, who ordered an invasion of Ukraine last week.
“I think it’s difficult,” MacLellan said. “There is a lot of pressure to [have] a political opinion either way, and they’re trying to balance out how they live their lives, what their political opinions are, and the repercussions that could happen back home. It’s a difficult situation for these guys.”
Have connected about Russia’s war in Ukraine with a number of NHL player agents who have Russian clients.
Advice they all are giving players is to be careful.
Russian parliament considering new law that could mean up to 15 yrs in prison for spreading “fake news” about the war.
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) March 2, 2022
Alex Ovechkin, who has been friendly with the Russian president, has faced the most criticism of any Russian NHL player. The Capitals captain participated in a propaganda campaign for Putin in 2014 when the country annexed eastern Ukraine (Crimea). Three years later, Ovechkin helped launch a propaganda movement called Putin Team.
Ovechkin spoke about the conflict last week, telling reporters that he wanted “no more war” and hoped Russia’s conflict with Ukraine would end soon.
“I’m not in politics, I’m an athlete,” Ovechkin said. “I hope everything is gonna be done soon. It’s sad situation right now for both sides and, like how I said, everything I hope is gonna be end. And I’m not control this situation.”
Sponsors have distanced themselves from the three-time MVP, including hockey equipment company CCM and life insurance company MassMutual. Ovechkin’s family, including his parents, wife (Nastya), and children (Sergei and Ilya), are currently in Russia.
“He’s a good person,” MacLellan said. “He’s an emotional person. He takes things personally. I think he’s been put under an incredible amount of pressure. For us, how do we support him? He’s been the face of our franchise and the face of hockey for this area. His family has grown up here. His kids are from here. Because of his status, he’s put in a hard situation to probably handle the situation I’m not sure he’s fully thought out. Or anybody has really.
“It’s hard for him,” he added. “We talked to him. He gets pressure from all sides. From North America. From Russia. From family. From a lot of different people. He tries to sort it out. We try to support him. We talk to him. We have people that are talking to him all the time asking him ‘how can we help?’ Help him get through what he needs to get through.”
MacLellan added that the Capitals have made sure to have security for the Russian players.
“I think some of the stuff that goes on with social media is scary for players on both sides,” he said. “People are lashing out. It’s difficult for them and their families. Families here. Families back home. It’s a hard situation.”
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