By Paige Midgley ’25
On March 8th, Alexander Ovechkin scored two goals against the Calgary Flames. Ovechkin had 766 career goals, tying him with Jaromir Jagr for third place in all time goals scored. Instead of the crowd being ecstatic, they booed just because of Alexander’s nationality.
In recent events, Russia has been placed under sanctions due to their current invasion of Ukraine. Some say we should also suspend Russian athlete contracts who play in professional hockey leagues. Innocent Russian hockey players in the National Hockey League should not be penalized for the actions of their government. The suspension of a contract should only be considered if a Russian player is in support of the war or breaches the contract. In the professional setting of the National Hockey League behavior such as booing a player should not be tolerated.
Many Canadian and American athletes are trying to blame Russian athletes competing in America for the work of their president. Many Russians refuse to talk on this manner due to fear of controversy or retaliation from their own government, but some have publicly expressed their opinions against the war. Nikita Zadorov, currently playing for the Calgary Flames, went to social media, posting things like “no war” and “stop it” even though his family might be in danger, he could be banned from the Russian National team. Brave Russians, like Zadorov, are risking their safety, the safety of their families, future opportunities, and so much more. They do not deserve the hate they are receiving, and just want to continue doing their job of playing hockey.
The National Hockey League does not have much of a history with inequality. People from all over the world, all different nationalities, and skin color can participate in all kinds of national leagues, as long as their skill is up to par with standards of a professional team. However, the Canadian Hockey League banned Russians and Belarusians from the draft this year. Alexander Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals captain and Russian ice hockey player responded with, “I am sick to my stomach for my home country, for the people there, the children,” he said. “I am extremely saddened by the way that some people in the world are treating innocent hockey players. They’ve done nothing but work their tails off for numerous years, for a chance, for a dream, to play in the best league in the world. And now they are being potentially denied the opportunity because they were born in Russia.” Russians need and deserve equal opportunity. They have worked just as hard as anyone else in a professional league. They deserve their spot and contracts.
In some cases, it may make sense to ban Russian athletes from events and sports due to sanctions on the country and the country’s current endeavors. Famous Canadian author and Olympic runner Bruce Kidd says, “I believe Russian nationals in the N.H.L. should be barred once the current season ends in June, their immigration visas suspended with the door open for asylum.” Russia’s conflicts have made many people angry. The sanctions on the country of Russia have many people in support of “no Russian representation” in anything, including sports.
Although Russia has not been in a great spot since Putin rose to power, its athletes are still innocent. Putin controls the media and tells the people of Russia what he wants them to hear. Russians protesting Putin and the war get punished by law. These people are not in the wrong and deserve equal opportunities in sports.
Russians, not only in the National Hockey League, but other sports, should not be punished when they have done nothing wrong. No official statement has been issued supporting the idea of terminating Russian player contracts in the National Hockey League, but as other sports such as Formula One racing, tennis, European football, and many more have decided to ban Russians, it is not clear what will happen when the ice hockey season ends. No one wants war, but Russians should be treated just like anyone else, and the sanctions on their country should not affect them when professional contract money goes to the individual and not the whole country. Russian players are not politicians.