Will Russia Prevent Return Of Their Players This Summer? Brian MacLellan Has Concerns: “I Think A Lot Of Us Are Worried”


There has been plenty of discussion (some coherent, some not) regarding Russian NHL players and whether they should be allowed to keep playing in the NHL following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. There are valid points on both sides of the argument.

But what about the chance that the Russian government prevents NHL players from leaving the country to rejoin their NHL teams later this summer? According to The Athletic’s Michael Russo and Dan Robson, there is real concern among some NHL teams and the league itself that the Russian government could prevent Russian players from returning to their NHL teams later this summer.

“I think a lot of us are worried,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said during March’s NHL general managers meetings. “I don’t know that anybody knows what’s going to happen. Hopefully there’s a resolution by then, a peaceful resolution, but you never know what could happen. I mean, they could be asked to stay or forced to stay or just there’s all kinds of outcomes that could happen,” said MacLellan. “I think there’s a lot of questions but no answers.”

It’s extremely difficult to forecast what might happen later this summer. A lot can change by then. However, it’s difficult to see a formal prevention by the Russian government for various reasons.

Russia has made it known they have issues with citizen’s making their money in Russia and spending it abroad. However, the situation is reversed for NHL players, who make their money in North America and most return home in the off-season and when they retire.

We may be able to glean some insight from Washington Capitals prospect Bogdan Trineyev, who made his way to Hershey this spring following the conclusion of the KHL season. Bears head coach Scott Allen said there were challenges in getting Trineyev to Hershey before the end of the season, but it wasn’t clear what those challenges were. Travel? Government? Personal? We don’t know, but in the end, he made it.

On a much lesser level, it’s also difficult to see the Russian government preventing a player like Alex Ovechkin from chasing THE marquis all-time record in the world of hockey. That would be a major feather in their hockey-loving cap.

The bottom line is we just don’t know, there are too many variables in an extremely volatile situation. However, I’m betting my chips that the players will be allowed to return, as per usual.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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19 Responses to Will Russia Prevent Return Of Their Players This Summer? Brian MacLellan Has Concerns: “I Think A Lot Of Us Are Worried”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see hockey-loving Putin stopping Ovi.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s not going to happen! Hockey is the 1 thing that carries good will around the World across Nations and OV and others are Global Ambassadors! Putin were to take Hockey away from the world &Russian HOF Players like Ov, Kucherov, Kirill etc. The people who may believe Putin is a mad man but alot of this is Biden doing Inflation etc.. will turn against Putin instantly for targeting Sports.

  3. Brian Clark says:

    I do not understand how a Russian player would go to Russia and must pretend nothing is happening. Ovechkin sought glory on a soccer field smiling, having a wonderful time all the while knowing his country was killing men, women and children. News reports emanating from the Ukraine are stories of death destruction and difficult to watch.
    Personally if they are not allowed back it’s nobody’s fault but their own lack of empathy and discretion. I am Canadian and have always loved hockey but this egregious act should not be tolerated by NHL.

    • Nick B. says:

      Americans committed horrible atrocities in multiple middle eastern countries under a deceitful guise. Austin Matthews sees no backlash in Canada. Also, Ukraine is the sex trafficking capital of the world. No one is innocent. Not any nation as a whole, rather. Armchair politicking does absolutely no good for anyone. Best to just focus on being a good person in the scapes you can reach and leave global politics to the experts. What’s the point in pushing to have athletes, who’ve spent all of their focus in life on competing and acheiving, held accountable for the actions of a horrid dictator and his army have done.

      • Brian Clark says:

        Do you know any country in the world that does not have sex trafficking.? This whole issue is not about morals or human dignity but like all the states in America it is simply making more and more money.
        By the way you must be a lawyer trying to deflect the real issue.

        • Sessh says:

          So you expect Ovi to stop living life because Russia’s “President” invades a country? I don’t get this sentiment that “because you’re Russian, you must also suffer!” Out of curiosity what do you want them to do? Denounce Russia and stay in the US while their families and friends are all in Russia?

  4. novafyre says:

    Ovi and family just vacationed outside Russia in Turkey.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      He went back to Russia (Krasnoyarsk) for Alexander Semin’s Farewell to Hockey charity game.

  5. Mr. Krabs says:

    If it happens…. We’re gonna really suck!

  6. Diane Doyle says:

    If it happens, it would gut the team as in no Ovi, no Orlov, and no Kuzy. That means Connor Bedard will be calling DC home in 2023-24.

  7. Antwerp says:

    You can attempt to justify it all you want but the fact remains these are enablers to a brutal murderer of an innocent people, including children. We all want to see Ovi achieve his place in history, but at what cost? Perhaps he should have anticipated this when he was showering great leader with accolades and love.

    I love how the rest of the world suffers so as to defend Ukraine. Higher gas prices, grain shortages, and looming recessions as a result. But Russian NHL players get a free pass in being able to straddle the middle and not take a side. They can make their millions, vacation in Turkey, and ride it all out unscathed by those who say, ‘Well, they are special, they are athletes, they are not political.” Sorry, in this case there is no avoiding a choice. You are either with a tyrant who is attempting to exterminate the people of Ukraine under the banner of lies and imperial ambitions or you are with the majority of the free world in condemning this brutality and willing to sacrifice for it personally.

    And spare me your weak false equivalence. Conjured up by those who care more for Hockey and how gutted the Caps would be in comparison to the brutality that is being witnessed daily. Try to explain that to the families of the innocent who were executed and buried in ditches by Russian soldiers.

    The NHL should also be courageous enough to say, “It is not appropriate for us to allow Russian players to compete in North America and bring home the money they are making under these circumstances.” Otherwise they are nothing more than cowardly enablers as well.

    • Tom Kuzyneckin says:

      Typical propaganda according to the manuals of the Empire of Lies and the Center for Information and Psychological Operations from Kiev.
      From the first to the last word is a lie.
      A coward does not play hockey, and does not fight for the truth, but bullshit in the comments.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Better question is does OV mean more to Putin as a record breaking goal scorer, or, as a martyr sacrificed in the heat of battle for the good of the country?

  9. Scottlew73 says:

    Now WHO was it that predicted this a possibility of happening…..humm,wish I could remember his name…humm…!!

  10. Tom Kuzyneckin says:

    So far, only Biden and the EU are imposing sanctions, not Russia.
    Ovi will come to Washington if Biden does not impose sanctions again, which will again affect ordinary Americans, Capitals and other NHL teams.

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