Alex Ovechkin Launches Into Canada’s Ukraine Territory as Scorned Star

Hockey star Alex Ovechkin, center among Russian professional athletes in public anger over the war in Ukraine, played in front of the most unsympathetic audience.

Ovechkin, a high-profile supporter of President Vladimir V. Putin, and his Washington Capitals teammates took on the Oilers on Wednesday night in Edmonton, Alberta, home to one of Canada’s largest concentrations of the Ukrainian diaspora.

Andriy Tovstiuk from Edmonton works with the Canadian Congress of Ukraine organizing fundraising, demonstrations, demonstrations and humanitarian relief efforts in Alberta for Ukraine. He was at Wednesday’s game at Rogers Place.

“I think we’re going to be loud, we’re going to be excited,” said Tovstiuk, whose organization worked with the Oilers and Calgary Flames to raise money for Ukraine through 50-50 draws, which often reach more than $1 million. “But we all really want to focus on supporting Ukraine and really supporting everything that’s going on right now.

“This is an emotional time for everyone, and we really encourage everyone to use this as a rallying point for Ukraine.”

Ovechkin is one of Russia’s most famous athletes, and his friendship with Putin, who has a singular passion for ice hockey, is widely known. That friendship was unshakable after Putin invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, with Ovechkin starting an online social movement in 2017 to support Putin in winning the 2018 Russian election.

Edmonton is home to 160,000 people of Ukrainian descent, and there are 370,000 in Alberta, according to the 2016 Canadian census. There are about 1.4 million people of Ukrainian background living in Canada, more than anywhere outside Ukraine and Russia.

Officials from the Capital, who have four Russian players on their roster including Ovechkin, have discussed security measures at Rogers Place with their fellow Oilers. Oilers did not respond to a request for comment. The capital declined to talk about the tape.

Tim Shipton, executive vice president of Oilers Entertainment Group, issued a statement Monday: “Edmonton Oilers stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. As we saw during Saturday’s home game, the Oilers fans have great respect in showing their support for Ukraine.”

On Wednesday evening, Viter, the Ukrainian folk choir, performed Canada’s national anthem in English and Ukrainian. The oilers continued to put Ukrainian flag stickers on their helmets. Fans wearing the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag graced the stands and waved flags throughout the arena. Every time Ovechkin touched the puck, he was booed loudly. He didn’t score, and Edmonton won, 4-3, in extra time with a goal from center star Connor McDavid.

On Tuesday, ahead of their first game of the season in Alberta, the Capitals issued a statement saying they “join the National Hockey League in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the loss of innocent lives.” The statement continued: “We urge and hope for a peaceful resolution as soon as possible. The capital also fully supports our Russian players and their families abroad. We recognize they are in a difficult situation and are ready to offer our assistance to them and their families.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Ovechkin, who is one of the NHL’s biggest stars — two goals in Tuesday’s 5-4 win against the Flames tied him third on the career goals list with Jaromir Jagr in 766 — has been booed and booed throughout the game. road. Her image was even booed in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday when she appeared in a video tribute to former Blue Jackets star Rick Nash.

Ovechkin held a press conference on February 25 meant to distance himself from Putin and support the Russian invasion. “I’m not in politics. Like, I’m an athlete,” he said. He added, without naming Putin, “Please, no more wars.”

Instead of appeasing his critics, Ovechkin found himself criticized by supporters of the war in his home country and opponents around the world. This resulted in a strong backlash on Ovechkin’s social media accounts from Russian supporters, and he was advised not to change his Instagram profile picture as it would not work well in Russia.

That’s why Ovechkin’s profile photo, which shows him with Putin, is verified Instagram account, which has 1.6 million followers, remained as of Wednesday afternoon. There were plans to turn the image into a symbol of world peace after the press conference, but since Ovechkin’s wife, two children and parents are currently in Russia, it was decided the photo of him and Putin would remain.

So far, defenders Ovechkin and Flames Nikita Zadorov are the only Russian players to publicly mention the war. Zadorov posted an emoji of the Ukrainian flag and the words “No war” and “STOP!!!” on Instagram days after the invasion.

According to the player’s agent Dan Milstein, who represents dozens of Russian and Belarusian players with NHL contracts, his clients and their families face a barrage of abuse and profanity on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

“I have my players’ wives who receive very disturbing messages,” Milstein said. “The comments under the pictures of the children are Nazi babies, go back to Russia, we don’t need you here, go home, among other things.”

Milstein, who is a native of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, was the only person linked to the NHL who agreed to speak on tape for this article, with others citing fears of repercussions for associates or clients who have family members in Russia.

An NHL spokesman did not respond to a request for comment from Commissioner Gary Bettman. But the league is working with police services in some of its team’s 32 cities to provide extra patrols around the arena and players’ homes.

Milstein said his Russian client on the NHL rosters wanted nothing to do with the war in Ukraine but feared the consequences of speaking out.

“Of course, they are not only worried about their families but also they are very worried about what is happening in Russia,” he said. “My client doesn’t want war, my client wants world peace. My client is concerned about everyone in Ukraine and Russia, everyone.”

Hockey equipment maker CCM said last week it would stop using Ovechkin and other Russian players in global marketing campaigns.

Russian and Belarusian players and teams have been banned from all international competitions by the International Ice Hockey Federation. They are also facing sanctions demands from fans, some governments and even Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky, 61, and still one of the most influential people in hockey, called for Russia to be banned from the 2022 men’s world junior tournament which was rescheduled shortly before the IIHF banned the country. He later explained on the Toronto Sportsnet radio station 590 that he was thinking about the large number of people of Ukrainian descent living in Canada, especially Edmonton, where the tournament will be played in August.

“I can’t understand how we would welcome a country at war, to a city where many Ukrainian family members still live in Ukraine,” said Gretzky, who won four Stanley Cup championships with Edmonton. . “And I’ve had a few rejections from people saying, ‘Why punish Russian children?’

“This is not about punishing Russian children. What about Ukrainian children being killed every day? Ukrainian children, aged 12 or 14, go to war. I don’t want anyone to be punished. I just think it makes sense that we shouldn’t have to compete with this country right now, while they are fighting an innocent nation.”

Last week, the NHL condemned the Russian invasion in an official statement and said it was immediately suspending business relations in Russia. The league suspended ties with the Continental Hockey League, which is mostly based in Russia, this week. NHL teams were asked to stop communicating with KHL teams and agents based in Russia.

That NHL statement also clarified the league’s position on Russian players, saying they “play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL clubs, and not on behalf of Russia.”

Milstein and other players’ agents said banning Russian NHL players was absurd and would play in the hands of Putin, who continues the Russian government’s tradition of using elite athletes as propaganda.

The player’s agent also criticized the Canadian Hockey League, the umbrella group that oversees the three major junior leagues. CHL recently announced the cancellation of this year’s Russia-Canada series. It also considers banning Russian and Belarusian prospects from its import draft, which distributes youth players from countries outside North America to CHL teams. Doing so, Milstein said, would essentially help Russia, which has an aversion to athletes playing elsewhere.

While some observers critical of Ovechkin, such as Hall of Fame goalkeeper Dominik Hasek, want him banned from supporting Putin, others think suspending him and other Russians will not help the situation.

Slava Malamud, a teacher in Baltimore who became a journalist for years in Russia, has a strong following on social media as a staunch critic of Ovechkin. While Malamud said he would have no problem with Ovechkin’s ban from the NHL because of his support for Putin, he didn’t think punishing all Russian players would be fair.

“We don’t punish Russians for being Russian,” he said. “You can’t help where you were born. But the players who explicitly support Putin, especially Ovechkin, have their conscience. He was stained by this. He did it very willingly.”

Jackson Wintringham

"Coffee aficionado nerd. Troublemaker. General communicator. Gamer. Analyst. Creator. Total brew ninja."

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