PRAGUE — The Czech Foreign Ministry has told two NHL groups opening the season in Prague that any Russian gamers would not be welcome because of the struggle in Ukraine.
It might not quantity to an outright ban and league officers downplayed the potential impact, however it added a layer of uncertainty to the Global Series, which can mark the NHL’s first games outside North America for the rationale that begin of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks are set to play regular-season video games Oct. 7 and 8 at Prague’s O2 Arena as a half of the sequence that’s meant to place the world’s top players on display, primarily in Europe. There aren’t many Russians on the rosters: Nashville has forward Yakov Trenin and San Jose has Alexander Barabanov and Evgeny Svechnikov, who is in training camp on an expert tryout settlement.
“We can affirm that the Czech Foreign Ministry has sent a letter to the NHL to point out that, at this second, the Czech Republic or any other state within the [visa free] Schengen zone mustn’t concern visas to the Russian players to enter our territory,” Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek stated in an announcement.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly advised The Associated Press on Thursday he has “no concern” with gamers both touring to Prague or suiting up to take the ice. Neither Daly nor the ministry would say if the league replied to the letter.
Agent Shumi Babaev, who represents Trenin, echoed Daly’s sentiment that he didn’t foresee any problems. Agent Dan Milstein, who represents Barabanov and Svechnikov, declined comment.
“My view is we’re a group in right here, and if we go over there, we want everyone on our team to be there,” Sharks captain Logan Couture stated. “All the blokes which are going to make the group are part of our group.”
Addressing the media on Thursday, Sharks general managers Mike Grier added, “We are a team. Either we all play, or we do not play.” Grier said the NHL is handling conversations with Russian players and the Czech government.
The Predators deferred remark to the NHL.
The ministry stated it knowledgeable the league “about ongoing negotiations about banning entry for these citizens of the Russian Federation who already had received valid visas earlier than.” One wrinkle includes passports from other nations or visas issued by different European international locations.
The Czech ministry mentioned a ban on Russian athletes in sports activities occasions in European Union countries was also beneficial by EU sports ministers.
The Czech Republic was one of many first EU countries to cease issuing visas to Russian nationals following the February invasion of Ukraine. Exceptions embrace humanitarian instances and people persecuted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
The NHL never considered banning Russians, many of whom are some of the most skilled hockey players on the earth. Commissioner Gary Bettman informed the AP during the spring Russians “are performing in the NHL for their NHL group for NHL fans.”
The league did bar players from taking the Stanley Cup from going to Russia or intently allied Belarus this summer season due to their roles within the invasion of Ukraine. Valeri Nichushkin was the only Russian participant on the Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
Along with the two games in Prague, the Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets will play twice in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5. The Finnish government’s position on Russian players was not instantly clear.
Czech NHL nice Dominik Hasek has led the opposition to Russian gamers coming to Prague because the games had been introduced in April. Hasek approached the upper home of Parliament, the Senate, the federal government and the Foreign Ministry concerning the issue.
“It’s very important for the support of our Ukrainian ally and safety of our citizens,” Hasek said in an interview for a Russian broadcaster. After it was not aired in Russia, he revealed it in Czech media.
“Yes, we do not want any promotion of the Russian aggression right here,” Hasek tweeted after the ministry’s move. “We’re guarding our lives and the lives of our allies within the first place.”