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