According to SKA St. Petersburg head coach and vice president, Roman Rotenberg, the Winnipeg native is applying to become a Russian citizen.
Leipsic left the NHL after making misogynistic messages that later became public. The veteran of four NHL seasons made a personal appeal to Russian president Vladimir Putin through a letter.
Roman Rotenberg: We will soon return from our holidays, and when that happens, I hope that we will have another Russian citizen in our team. Before he signed his SKA contract, Brendan Leipsic stated his desire to obtain Russian citizenship and sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This practice has been seen before in football, with Zenit players Malcom and Claudinho having received Russian passports. Brazil are indeed the football equivalent of Canada in ice hockey.
Right now we need to strengthen our league as much as possible, and if such a strong player as Leipsic receives Russian citizenship, it will only reinforce his desire to play in the KHL. Brendan has been living in our country for three years, playing for CSKA Moscow and Metallurg Magnitogorsk before subsequently signing for SKA. During that time, he’s travelled across the entirety of Russia and has felt fully at home.
It’s no secret that he faced injustice in North America, but he has always felt plenty of support from the fans, coaches and teammates here in Russia. His favourite player is Alexander Ovechkin, and he grew up watching legendary Russian players such as Pavel Bure. One day, maybe Brendan himself will also play for the Russian national team.
This is an important story for SKA and Russian ice hockey as a whole. We will do everything to ensure that Brendan’s desire to receive Russian citizenship becomes a reality. This is a bold step which carries lots of responsibility, and it can only be welcomed.
It’s worth noting, Rotenberg was sanctioned by the United States’ Department of the Treasury in 2015 due to concerns of Russia’s activities in Ukraine.
Leipsic ended up in the Russian KHL after being cut by the Washington Capitals in May 2020. Leipsic was exposed making misogynistic comments in an Instagram group chat with friends. Leipsic chastised women about their weight and appearance and also insulted his teammates.
The NHL released a statement at the time that “strongly condemns the misogynistic and reprehensible remarks”, adding “there is no place in our League for such statements, attitudes and behavior, no matter the forum.”
Leipsic released an apology on his personal Twitter (that he has since deleted), saying “I fully recognize how inappropriate and offensive these comments are and sincerely apologize to everyone for my actions. I am committed to learning from this and becoming a better person by taking time to determine how to move forward in an accountable, meaningful way. I am truly sorry.”
After failing to sign with another NHL team, Leipsic inked a deal with CSKA for the 2020-21 season, tallying 24 points (11g, 13a) in 42 games and chipping in 8 points (3g, 5a) in 16 playoff games.
Leipsic would have even more success after signing a two-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, scoring a career high 16 goals during the 2021-22 campaign and notching a career-high 44 points in 2022-23. During the 2022 postseason, Metallurg lost in the Gagarin Cup Finals in seven games to SKA St. Petersburg. Leipsic was nearly a point-per-game player during that time, posting 20 points (11g, 9a) in 24 playoff games.
In late June, Leipsic signed a two-year deal with Rotenberg’s SKA.
Brendan Leipsic is a SKA player!
The forward has signed a two-year contract with our club. While playing for our team, he will wear the number 88 on his jersey.
— SKA Ice Hockey Club (@hcSKA_News) June 23, 2023
Leipsic’s application for citizenship comes a year after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Russia has received widespread international condemnation for the invasion and subsequent war. It is believed hundreds of thousands of people have died and 8.2 million Ukrainians have fled the country.
Leipsic’s application for citizenship was applauded by former NHL player Vyacheslav Fetisov, who is now a member of the Russian State Duma.
“What is so unexpected about this? The guy understands the benefits of living in Russia if he makes such a difficult decision in the current political situation,” Fetisov said per TASS and translated by Google Translate. “A good example of how people treat our country and our people, knowing the situation from the inside. A positive moment, I hope that he will have many followers.”
Much of the discussion in Russia surrounding the story is if Leipsic should be utilized on the Russian national team, which he would be eligible for if he receives citizenship.
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