TSN’s Rick Westhead is reporting that a group of Russian NHL’ers tried to craft a joint statement about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but could not come to an agreement on what it should say.
The unknown group of Russian NHL players messaged each other in a group chat on Telegram.
A group of Russian NHL players on a group chat on the Telegram app discussed making a joint statement about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two sources familiar with the matter tell me
When players couldn't agree on what that statement should say, group chat was disbanded.
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) March 8, 2022
It’s unclear if Alex Ovechkin or any of the Capitals’ other Russian players participated in the chat. The Capitals organization released a statement on Tuesday saying it condemned the invasion.
Russian NHLers have come under a lot of pressure from North American hockey fans to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but none have done so since the war began on February 24.
On Friday of last week, Russia’s parliament passed a law cracking down on what it called “fake” news about the war. Russian individuals could be jailed for up to 15 years for intentionally spreading what it considered untrue facts about the Russian military. Russian president Vladimir Putin has referred to the invasion as a “special military operation” whose goal is to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, which has a Jewish leader. The United States and its allies have condemned Russia’s invasion and placed economic sanctions on the country.
Ovechkin has faced the most backlash 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 a day after it began, 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.”
Russia has cracked down on anyone against the war, including late-night talk show host Ivan Urgant. Urgant came out against the war and had his show subsequently canceled. Ovechkin appeared on Evening Urgant in September 2013 and fed Urgant tiramisu pie with his hockey stick.
On February 24, Russia's most famous talk show host Ivan Urgant came out against the invasion of Ukraine.
Urgant is the country's answer to Jimmy Kimmel, and has hosted more than 1,500 episodes. Immediately after speaking out, his show Evening Urgant was canceled. pic.twitter.com/pwuJcMWIan
— Jonny Tickle (@jonnytickle) March 6, 2022
The NHL features 55 Russian players. Some of the league’s biggest stars are from the country including Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Artemi Panarin, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov, and Igor Shesterkin.
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