By Ian Oland
Alex Ovechkin was featured in a New York Times story on Wednesday entitled Alex Ovechkin Skates Into Canada’s Dense Ukrainian Enclave.
The story written by David Shoalts goes in-depth about how Ovechkin’s image has taken a hit recently due to his relationship with Vladimir Putin. As the Russian president approved an invasion of sovereign Ukraine, Ovechkin was criticized by fans for not condemning the war or distancing himself from Putin during a press conference he held with Capitals media on February 25. Sponsors distanced themselves from the three-time MVP, including hockey equipment company CCM and life insurance company MassMutual. Making matters worse, Ovechkin left up a photo he took with Putin in 2014 as his Instagram profile photo.
Many fans interpreted Ovechkin’s Instagram profile photo as unbending support towards Putin and his war while others thought Ovechkin could face backlash if he changed it.
Shoalts addressed the profile photo controversy in his NYT article and reported that Ovechkin was advised not to change it.
Instead of calming his detractors (after his press conference), Ovechkin found himself under criticism from supporters of the war in his home country and opponents of it in the rest of the world. This resulted in a severe backlash on Ovechkin’s social media accounts from Russian supporters, and he was advised not to change his Instagram profile picture because it would not go over well in Russia.
That is why Ovechkin’s profile picture, showing him with Putin, on his verified Instagram account, which has 1.6 million followers, remained as of Wednesday afternoon. There was a plan to change the picture to a symbol for world peace after the news conference, but since Ovechkin’s wife, two children and parents are currently in Russia, it was decided the photo of him and Putin would stay.
Ovechkin has since limited comments on his Instagram photos and disallowed tagging on his profile.
Concerns about Russian backlash are well-founded where thousands of protestors in Ovechkin’s home country have been jailed for coming out against the war. The country’s parliament last week just passed a law cracking down on what it called “fake” news about the invasion. Russians who were found guilty could be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail. Other major Russian celebrities who have spoken out about the war, such as late night talk show host Ivan Urgant, had their programs canceled. Ovechkin was a guest on the show in September 2013.
Ovechkin’s family flew to Russia ahead of the invasion to spend time with other family members and celebrate the birthday of Nastya’s late mother Vera Glagoleva.
The Capitals released a statement as an organization condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine on Tuesday. Nastya liked a picture of the Capitals’ release on her Instagram account.
Ovechkin has been booed somewhat during the Capitals’ road trip in Canada this week — lightly in Calgary and more in Edmonton — as he continued his march up the NHL’s all-time goals list.
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