On Saturday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin participated in Ilya Kovalchuk’s charity hockey game, “From Pure Heart.” Also at the game was KHL president Alexander Medvedev.
A member of Sport-Express’s sports department caught up with Medvedev, asking a bunch of questions about the charity game and the KHL. At the end of their conversation, the interviewer asked a rote question about when Ovechkin and other Russian NHL stars might leave North America and come back home.
Medvedev’s answer was portentous.
Igor Kleyner has your translation.
When are we going to see [Ovechkin and Malkin] on KHL rinks, not just for a preseason charity game?
Alexander Medvedev: “Are you talking about [Ovechkin and Malkin] returning to the KHL? Next season there may be pleasant surprises. Let’s wait.”
Former Red Wing Slava Fetisov later expanded on Medvedev’s comments while speaking to Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov. Fetisov is a prominent member of Putin’s United Russia political party and the Russian Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russian Legislature.
Medvedev mentioned the possibility of Ovechkin and Malkin returning to the KHL: “Expect surprises the next season.” Is it realistic, considering the political situation?
Slava Fetisov: “This is not an easy situation. Although I never imagined that athletes would be discriminated against during political confrontations. But yesterday I talked to Sasha Ovechkin. He had a picture taken holding a sign “Save children from fascism” and right away he got a lot of retweets as if he were supporting Putin.
The way I understand, fascism was denounced by modern humanity a long time ago. As a fact. How can you connect one to another? I am beginning to be concerned how Ovechkin will be received in America. Although I believe that sport is the only thing that can unite people today. Our guys from the NHL are ambassadors promoting our way of life.
Everybody portrays Russia as the aggressor. But even in hockey, an aggressive sport, we have always played in a more artistic way than anybody else.
I think Malkin and Ovechkin should play in the NHL. There is a conversation. But I don’t know how realistic it would be to take all our stars back from there.”
Oh god, not again.
These comments come one year after Dynamo Moscow general director Andrey Safronov talked about looking for a way to get Ovechkin to return to his Russian team.
“Ovechkin has a current contract with the Capitals,” Safronov was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS. “Can we try to pull him out? We’ll talk, we’ll look at each other and will have some result. Right now all Russian national team players want to come back to their homeland.”
When Ovechkin returned to America for training camp a year ago, the Caps captain brushed away Safronov’s comments. The political situation has changed a lot in a year.
Russia is currently being sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for its role in Ukraine. Late last week, Ovechkin showed support towards Russian president Vladimir Putin and his actions in Ukraine with an Instagram photo.
The KHL’s Memorandum of Understanding agreement with the NHL ends on June 30, 2015. What happens after that is anybody’s guess.