The National Hockey League suspended commercial activities in Russia, including social and digital media operations, and barred future competitions in the country following its invasion of Ukraine.
The military offensive, which began last week, continues to provoke widespread backlash against Russia in the business community. Sport is an area where Russia also faces immediate consequences. FIFA said Russia would not be allowed to participate in this year’s World Cup, and the International Olympic Committee called for a wide-ranging boycott of Russia and Belarus for what it called ” a violation of the Olympic truce”.
In a statement, the NHL expressed concern for its Russian players, who compete for teams based in the United States and Canada, as an increasingly difficult situation unfolds in Ukraine and Russia:
“The National Hockey League condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as soon as possible,” the statement said. “With immediate effect, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are suspending our social and digital media sites in Russian. In addition, we stop considering Russia as a location for future competitions involving the NHL.
“We also remain concerned about the welfare of Russian players, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL clubs, not on behalf of Russia. We understand that they and their families are placed in an extremely difficult position.
Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek, who is Czech, called on the NHL to “immediately suspend the contracts of all Russian-born players.” He also ripped into Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who had previously voiced his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, tweeting a number of pejoratives over the weekend.
Asked in recent days about his assessment of Putin in light of the invasion, Moscow-born Ovechkin told reporters: “He’s my president, but… I don’t do politics.” He added: “I am an athlete and as I said I hope it will all be over soon. It’s a difficult situation right now for both parties. … I don’t control the situation.
“The Russian Five”: Documentary on the first Russians to play together in the NHL
More than any other major professional sport in North America, Russia plays an important role in shaping the NHL. The roots of this go back to the many clashes between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, none bigger than the Americans’ upset victory in 1980 en route to an Olympic gold medal. In the late 1980s, a few years before the fall of the Soviet Union, a wave of talented Russian players began lacing up their skates for the NHL. In the 1990s, the Detroit Red Wings’ “Russian Five” group of players propelled the team to back-to-back Stanley Cup victories.