Two Teams Pull Out of KHL to Protest Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

Photo: Getty Images

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already had implications in hockey. It started on Friday when Jokerit, the KHL team based in Helsinki, Finland, withdrew from the Gagarin Cup playoffs to protest the invasion. It continued on Sunday with Dynamo Riga, the KHL team in Latvia, also withdrawing from the KHL.

Jokerit Helsinki pulled out of the 2021-22 Kontinental Hockey League playoffs on Friday. They finished the regular season with the second best record in the Western Conference and were slated to play Spartak, the seventh seed, beginning on March 1.

The team, based out of Helsinki, Finland’s capital city, said continuing its season would be impossible following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Jokerit chairman, Jari Kurri, a former NHL star with the Edmonton Oilers, said in a statement, “My position on the end of the season was clear right on Thursday morning. However, in accordance with KHL policies, I had to have discussions with the league. That is why we are unfortunately only able to report this now,” said Kurri.

“The world is going through really difficult times right now. All our thoughts are with the people suffering from the situation. We hope that a peaceful solution to the situation can be found soon.”

Alexei Morozov, the President of the KHL, stated his reaction. “We’re very sorry to lose Jokerit, an excellent and vibrant team, with a recognizable style. Jokerit plays in our league since the 2014-2015 season and has constantly reached the playoffs. Games with all the teams in the league have always been interesting. It’s very unfortunate that the Jokerit’s departure is due not to sporting reasons, but to political ones.”

Soon after the announced withdrawal, the KHL announced that since Jokerit would not participate in the playoffs, they awarded a first round series win to Spartak who would now automatically advance to the second round of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.

Additional Response To Invasion

In addition, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association removed the symbols of the Finnish national team from the Hartwall Arena, the arena where Jokerit plays.

“The Finnish Ice Hockey Federation condemns Russia’s actions in Ukraine and has begun discussions with the International Ice Hockey Federation and other key ice hockey countries to assess the situation and possible measures. As an urgent measure, the Ice Hockey Federation has decided to lower the Lviv jerseys and champion pennants from under the arches of the Hartwall Arena, which are currently located at Hartwall Arena. Their future location will be determined at a later date.”

It is not clear as to whether Jokerit’s departure from the KHL only applies to the remainder of this season or is more permanent. They would likely return to the Finnish Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.

YLE Finnish News Site: Discussion on Withdrawal
All Hockey Russia: News on Jokerit Withdrawal from KHL

Jokerit was not the only team to leave the KHL in response to the invasion. On Sunday, Dinamo Riga announced their withdrawal from the KHL.

Photo: Gavriil Grigorov/TASS

Chairman Juris Savickis made the announcement.“The decision to withdraw from KHL has been made, thus expressing a clear position of the club management. In such a military and humanitarian crisis, we do not see any opportunity for cooperation with the Kontinental Hockey League.“

Dinamo Riga had originally joined the KHL back in 2008.

With the moves by Jokerit and Dinamo Riga, the remaining non-Russian teams in the KHL are: China’s Kunlun Red Stars, Belarus’ Dynamo Minsk, and Kazakhstan’s Barys Nur-Sultan.

Potential Additional International Sanctions

The international sanctions may not just be limited to teams withdrawing from KHL competition. In addition, the Latvian Hockey Federation has urged the IIHF to exclude Russian and Belorussian hockey federations from their organization.

In addition, the Swiss Hockey Association has also called for immediate sanctions.

By Diane Doyle

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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1 Response to Two Teams Pull Out of KHL to Protest Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good deal. Keep it going! It sounds like FIFA didn’t have the balls to completely kick Russia out of tournament. What a spineless organization.

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