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NHL Notebook: Russo-Ukrainian War impacting the sport

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

March 3rd, 2022

Let’s recap some of the major NHL headlines from on and off the ice over the last week.

NHL rebukes Russia’s actions in Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has rocked the world over the last week, and the NHL made its opinion felt with a strongly-worded statement on Monday.

“The National Hockey League condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible,” the statement read. “Effective immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are pausing our Russian language social and digital media sites. In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL.”

The NHL was far from the only organization that expressed displeasure with Russia over the last week. The International Ice Hockey Federation also took a stand on Monday by banning teams from Belarus (which has aided Russia during this ongoing conflict) and Russia from participating in international hockey events “until further notice,” and will relocate the 2023 World Junior Championship tournament out of Russia.  

Video game developer EA Sports will remove all Russian and Belarusian teams from its NHL and FIFA franchises, announcing in a statement, “EA Sports stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and…calls for peace and an end to the invasion of Ukraine.”

Russians in NHL dealing with uncomfortable situation

Alex Ovechkin is the most famous Russian player in the NHL, and not even he has been safe from the backlash of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Ovechkin was dropped as an endorser at CCM Hockey and MassMutual, with CCM Hockey chief executive Marrouane Nabih telling TSN, “Although Mr. Ovechkin is not responsible for the Russian government’s actions, we took the decision to not use him (or any Russian player) on any global CCM communication at this point.”

The Washington Capitals star has campaigned for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, but condemned war in general on Friday, telling reporters, “Please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who is in the war – Russia, Ukraine, different countries – we have to live in peace.”

Meanwhile, other Russian and Belarusian players are experiencing “disturbing levels” of harassment, per NHL player agent Dan Milstein, who represents about 75% of this NHL community.

“The discrimination and racism these Russian and Belarusian players are facing right now is remarkable,” he told ESPN, mentioning that some of his clients have even received death threats against themselves and their families.

Milstein, a native Ukrainian, represents Flames defenseman Nikita Zadorov, one of the few Russian-born NHLers to openly condemn his native country’s actions. He posted a “No War” message on his Instagram on Friday, and almost immediately incurred a slew of negative messages on his account.

Lightning, Avalanche on crash course for Cup Final?

NHL Championship 2021/2022

Thu, June 16 2022, 10:00 AM

Colorado Avalanche

+450

Florida Panthers

+750

Tampa Bay Lightning

+750

Carolina Hurricanes

+800

Vegas Golden Knights

+800

Calgary Flames

+1000

Toronto Maple Leafs

+1100

Minnesota Wild

+1500

Pittsburgh Penguins

+1600

Boston Bruins

+2000

The back-to-back defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, having won five in a row. That includes their Stadium Series victory over the Nashville Predators at Nissan Stadium on Saturday night.

The Colorado Avalanche have been the 2021-22 Stanley Cup favorites for the vast majority of the season, and have won four straight games. They are an incredible 23-2-2 since Jan. 2, and are clearly the team to beat in the Western Conference.

The Avs are currently +450 to win the Cup, with the Lightning sitting as co-second choices with the Florida Panthers at +750.

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