Thursday, September 29, 2022

NHL says Russian players ready to play season opener in Czech Republic CBC Sports

Russian players on the two NHL teams starting the season in the Czech Republic will be allowed to participate in two Global Series games in Prague.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said on Thursday that the Czech government has lifted the ban on Russian players on San Jose and Nashville rosters. The move paves the way for sharks and hunters to travel to Europe this weekend for practice and exhibition games in Germany and Switzerland, respectively, before going head-to-head on October 7 and 8 at Prague’s O2 Arena.

The Czech foreign ministry said last week that Russian players would not be allowed into the country because of their country’s invasion of Ukraine. The Czech officials could not be contacted late Thursday night. The Czech Republic was, with few exceptions, one of the first EU countries to stop issuing visas to Russian citizens after the February invasion.

Daly had expressed confidence that two Russian players in the team’s roster would play. Nashville have forward Yakov Trainin and San Jose have Alexander Barbanov as well as Evgeny Svechnikov, who is in training camp on a tryout deal.

The poachers said last week they were told not to expect any issues. The Sharks, from Captain Logan Couture to General Manager Mike Grier, took an all-or-nothing approach.

“We’re a team, so if they say some people can’t go, either we all go or nobody goes,” Grier said. “It’s not the players’ fault. They didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t think they should be punished for it. We stand with them, and we’re all here together.”

The NHL never considered banning the Russians, many of whom are some of the most skilled hockey players in the world. Commissioner Gary Bateman told the AP during the spring that the Russians “have been performing for their NHL team in the NHL for NHL fans.”

The league barred players from going to the Stanley Cup Russia or close ally Belarus this summer. Valery Nichushkin was the only Russian player on the Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

The NHL is returning to Europe for its first games outside North America since 2019. After two games in Prague, the Avalanche and the Columbus Blue Jackets will play twice in Tampere, Finland on 4–5 November.

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