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[Editor's note: We're not writing about this topic to invite a debate on Barack Obama's presidency or the politics of Crimea. This article is about hockey. Kind of. It's also about Miley Cyrus.]

In March, Vladimir Putin sent troops into the Crimea. His stated motive was to protect the mostly Russian population there from unrest. A few days later, the Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation. Putin then claimed Crimea as part of Russia on moral and material grounds, citing the principle of self-determination and Crimea’s strategic importance for Russia or some ish like that.

Lots of world leaders were pretty pissed about this, judging by the non-binding UN resolution (100 of 193 in favor) that declared Crimea’s Moscow-backed referendum invalid a few days later. Then the United States decided to show just how pissed they were by sanctioning Vladimir Putin and all his boyz.

Those of us who watch the news every night and consider ourselves informed knew all of this already. What we didn’t know is who exactly got sanctioned, why they got sanctioned, and why those sanctions matter to us. Thanks to Jennifer M. Smith (whom we had the pleasure of meeting at RMNB Party 6) and her co-workers at the Stewart & Stewart law firm, we have learned that some of the people sanctioned are deeply involved in the Russian hockey league, the KHL. Russian billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, president of Alex Ovechkin’s former KHL team Dynamo Moscow, has been sanctioned by the United States for being Putin’s former judo partner and a member of his inner circle.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to action following KHL Olympic break on Wednesday as Traktor Chelyabinsk faced reigning champions Dynamo Moscow in a Gagarin Cup re-match. Traktor, still battling for a postseason spot, gave the champions a battle but fell 5-3 in a high scoring affair.

Despite being one of the best players on the ice, Kuznetsov was unable to snap his goalless streak, now at 12 games (his last goal came on November 28th). But at least he keeps racking up the assists.

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Photo credit: @wyshynski

As the Washington Capitals training camp opened to the public on Thursday, captain Alex Ovechkin had a pep in his step. “I feel great,” Ovechkin said. “Everybody is glad to be back on the ice. The first practice is fast and short. A couple of exercises, some endurance training. All you need is to feel the ice, get used to the puck again, things like that.”

Later, speaking exclusively to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, Ovi went on about his good health and what it would take to be a part of the Olympic torch ceremony, but he seems to be pretty much done discussing comments made by Dynamo’s General Director Andrei Safronov.

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Dynamo Moscow's Ovechkin and SKA St. Petersburg's Kovalchuk skate during their Kontinental Hockey League game in Moscow

Photo credit: Maxim Shemetov

Last Friday, Dynamo Moscow General Director Andrei Safronov was asked in a fan forum about his team’s interest in bringing Alex Ovechkin back to Russia to play for his home team. “Ovechkin has a current contract with the Capitals,” Safronov said. “Can we try to pull him out? We’ll talk. We’ll look at each other and will have some result.”

That might have seemed at first an unrehearsed response to an informal question, but on Tuesday, Safronov doubled down on his comments in an interview with Sport Express’s Dinara Kafiskina.

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Photo credit: VTBRussia.ru

Friday, during a fan forum, Dynamo Moscow general director Andrey Safronov said that he’d talk to Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin about coming back to Russia. Ovechkin, a Dynamo alum who played for the club until 2005 as well as during the 2012 lockout, is under contract with the Capitals until 2021. The reigning Hart trophy winner is slated to receive $79 million over the next eight seasons.

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Nicky, during his stint with Dynamo. (Photo credit: Fedor Uspensky / Sport-Express)

Nicklas Backstrom’s name will appear on the Gagarin Cup after all, KHL champions Dynamo Moscow announced Tuesday. Originally, the team decided not to engrave names of the players who played fewer than 26 games or weren’t with the team at the end of the regular season. Backstrom scored 25 points in 19 KHL games before flying back to Washington when the lockout ended.

Just like any other Russian matter, the organization has changed its mind after one Dynamo fan site posted an open letter to the club looking for more clarity. “It is unclear to us why the names of some players are absent on the prestigious trophy,” authors Artem Dorozhkin (Dynamo’s former PR guy) and Maxim Shcherbinin wrote. “We’re asking you to tell us the reason why certain players were left off the list the club submitted to the KHL. It will help avoid useless rumors among Dynamo Moscow fans.”

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Ovi wears his boot on stage. This man is clearly devoted to getting healthy. (Photos via the KHL’s Facebook page)

Alex Ovechkin played 31 games for his hometown KHL team, Dynamo Moscow, before the NHL lockout ended in January. During that time, Ovechkin scored 19 goals and had 40 points. Even without Ovi and Nicklas Backstrom, Dynamo went on to beat Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Traktor Chelyabinsk in the finals and repeat as champions. And because of his teammates’ hard work, his role as an advisor, and early season stint with the team, Ovechkin got some pretty sweet hardware for his trouble.

Ovechkin will receive the team’s championship ring, his name has been written on the Gagarin Cup, and now, Ovi has joined his Dynamo teammates on a parade through Moscow and received a gold medal. It’s not a World Championships gold medal, but hey, this will do.

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Kuzya skates with the national team. (Photo credit: Champtionat.com)

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been engulfed in rumors of trades to the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow and getting lured out of his current deal by Capitals officials. But speaking with Mikhail Zislis of Sport-Express, Kuznetsov cleared the air on both sides of the Atlantic. Kuznetsov squashed the rumors and restated that he’ll make the jump to the NHL next year.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov denied on a breakaway by Dynamo’s Alexander Yeremenko during the Gagarin Cup Finals (Photo credit: R-Sport)

Sport-Express is reporting a potential trade between Dynamo Moscow and Traktor Chelyabinsk involving Evgeny Kuznetsov, one of the KHL’s brightest stars and a prominent Caps prospect. According to one of  Russia’s most popular sports publications, Kuznetsov may follow two other young forwards, Valery Nichushkin and Maxim Karpov, who have already been traded from Chelyabinsk to Moscow.

From Sports-Express:

After Valery Nichushkin and Maxim Karpov, another Traktor player may move to Dynamo: Evgeny Kuznetsov. According to [Sport-Express'] information, blue-and-whites [Dynamo] have started talks with Traktor about buying the rights and contract of the 2012 World Champion and 2011 World Junior Champion. Kuznetsov is currently with the Russian national team at the World Championships, but hasn’t been placed on the finalized roster yet.

If this rumor is true, Traktor is in a state of upheaval, and it’s possible Evgeny Kuznetsov may be headed to Washington sooner than planned– or not at all.

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Ovechkin, Komarov, and some body parts of Backstrom during their stint with Dynamo. (Photo credit: HC Dynamo)

On Wednesday, Dynamo Moscow beat Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s Traktor Chelyabisnk to win the Gagarin Cup for the second straight year. After the win, some Russian media outlets reported that Alex Ovechkin‘s name will be engraved on the Cup as he played in more than half of the regular season games with Dynamo. Ovi also said he’s going to get a championship ring.

Today those same outlets, Sovetsky Sport particularly, pulled a CNN and denied their own report (and unpublished the original stories), claiming that Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Leo Komarov doesn’t fit the definition of “loaned” players. A loaned player in the KHL is a player who was sent down to a minor professional league like the VHL. Since their contracts were voided when the three went back to the NHL, the number of games played is irrelevant. Technically, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Komarov are no longer part of Dynamo.

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