You know things have gotten bad when an organization as corrupt as FIFA takes a stand.
Russian hockey bears the brunt of the sporting worlds response
By Joseph Agosti, Contributor
A week into the Russian invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, the world is still reeling from the global impact it has made. The world has taken action with intense sanctions against the Russian economy, mainly by freezing Russian assets across the globe. Whether or not this is a sound strategy of deterrence is up for debate, but it is clear Vladimir Putin’s actions are amongst the greatest geopolitical threats the world has seen in nearly 80 years.
While the economic sanctions will hit an already challenged Russian economy hard, it will be interesting to see how far the sports world will go in order to send a message to Putin. Putin is known to be a lover of sports, with a personal favourite of his being ice hockey. One thing sports networks love to show is the old-timer’s hockey game Putin participates in where he routinely scores 10+ goals on goalies clearly playing under duress. So it’s clear sport is part of the cult of personality Putin loves to cultivate. It’s well past time global sporting leaders take away Putin’s favourite international pastime.
In the past week, there has been much debate about just how many entities would ban Russia from international sporting competitions. That answer was quickly answered when FIFA disqualified the Russian soccer team from World Cup qualifying. You know things have gotten bad when an organization as corrupt as FIFA takes a stand. Next, the International Ice Hockey Federation banned Russia from all international ice hockey competitions throughout this calendar year. They also removed the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship from Russia where it was originally scheduled to take place.
To make matters worse for young Russian hockey players, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL)—the biggest junior hockey league in Canada—cancelled the Canada-Russia Top Prospects game. They also released a statement claiming that they were considering making 16-17-year-old Russians ineligible for the CHL draft.
While all these measures could have a global impact, none is as major as what has been proposed by Dominik Hasek. Hasek, one of the all-time greatest goaltenders was born and raised in former Czechoslovakia and has experience in oppressive regimes. Hasek has called for all Russian players in the NHL to have their work visas cancelled. Hasek has specifically called out Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin, a known supporter of Putin, called for “no more war”, in a press conference last week. Ovechkin has been called out in the past week for his longtime support of Putin, having founded “Putin Team”, in 2017 a Putin-focused political group. It remains to be seen if the NHL takes Hasek’s relatively extreme advice.
In the end, sports comes secondary in a global crisis like the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The main goal should be making sure that Ukraine comes out of this conflict as a whole and united country; something it seems Putin desperately wants to change. The economic sanctions imposed by President Biden and NATO leaders are a good start, but it may be prudent to hit Putin in his hobbies, just like you would a petulant child.