NHL stars support the war against Ukraine

Putin Ovechkin

 

2014/09/01 • Analysis & Opinion, Featured

A number of Russian NHL stars have quickly taken to backing their homeland in the war against Ukraine, with multiple MVP Alexander Ovechkin making the most recent headlines. The negative attention was significant enough that Hall of Famer Slava Fetisov expressed concern over how Ovechkin will continue to be received by fans in North America.

On Instagram, Ovechkin posted a controversial picture of himself holding a card reading “save children from fascism.” Given the context of evoking ‘fascism’ in Russian rhetoric over the past several months, the Washington Capitals winger is effectively saying Russia must save children from Ukraine and Ukrainians, or possibly even Americans, as many Russians blame the U.S. for importing ‘fascism’ into Ukraine.

Affixed to the picture is also the note: “Our grandparents have seen the horrors of fascism. We will not allow it in our time!!” – clearly throwing his weight behind Russia’s military invasion aimed at preventing Ukrainian democracy and independence from taking root.

Acclaimed historian Timothy Snyder best explains the politics of the term:

Thus began the politics of fascism and anti-fascism, where Moscow was the defender of all that was good, and its critics were fascists. This very effective pose, of course, did not preclude an actual Soviet alliance with the actual Nazis in 1939. Given today’s return of Russian propaganda to anti-fascism, this is an important point to remember: The whole grand moral Manichaeism was meant to serve the state, and as such did not limit it in any way. The embrace of anti-fascism as a rhetorical strategy is quite different from opposing actual fascists.

“Anti-fascist” slogans (and even organizations) are also typically espoused as a smokescreen by Russia’s far-right, a political sphere that ironically contains a plethora of racist, neo-Nazi and indeed fascist figures. A leading figure of this core, Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, recently called for the outright genocide of Ukrainians, calling for the country to be “cleansed” of the Ukrainian “race of bastards.”

Thankfully, despite Ovechkin’s concerns, hockey for Donetsk area children in liberated territory couldn’t look brighter at the moment. In Druzhkivka, hundreds of players and their families turned out to start the season in the city’s new arena days after his comments.

Ovechkin’s show of support for Putin’s war wasn’t isolated to just the aforementioned photo, as he posted another photo two days later with fellow Russian NHL star Evgeni Malkin, brandishing a pair of Vladimir Putin iPhone cases, “a souvenir from our president.”

For his part, Malkin makes his position directly known in a number of recent uploads. A month ago, he posted photos of himself posing with both a figure of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and an airbrushed portrait of Putin on the hood of a BMW.

More direct though is this group shot which features Malkin (right) and another NHL player, Sergei Gonchar (left) wearing Putin fan shirts in a group photo.

The shirts aren’t simply innocuous kitsch, but rather an advertisement for Crimea’s occupation. The slogan beneath the venerating screen prints of macho-Putin, which is also coyly repeated by Malkin in the photo description (with a smiley face to boot), says “polite people” – a term popularized among Russian nationalists to describe the military personnel who participated in the annexation of Crimea. To people like Malkin and Gonchar, Crimea was a ‘polite’ annexation.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov has also posted a similar picture on his Instagram account, wearing Putin t-shirt which says “Crimea is Ours,” as reported by Sports Illustrated. [Updated September 15]

Varlamov later deleted this photo after it caught attention

Varlamov later deleted this photo after it caught attention

All of this should come as no surprise given these players’ track records. Following Russia’s IIHF World Championship win this summer, Putin joined in on the celebrations, partying with the players. The championship, which was hosted in Belarus, was wrought with controversy with many fans speculating that the officiating was fixed and rightfully protesting the overlooked actions of the Russian head coach who used a hidden radio device to circumvent his standing suspension.

Ovechkin and Putin

Days later the stars, Ovechkin and Malkin, were seen again being more than chummy with the Russian leader at a state ceremony held for the roster. While they may have just been overjoyed since Putin had just bought the players brand new Mercedes sports cars to celebrate the win, Ovechkin’s personal relationship with the benevolent dictator goes further back, evening having his personal home phone number (the two call each other frequently).

Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk caused a furor earlier in the year for his comments on Russia’s repressive anti-gay laws. When asked for his position he responded with: “I’m an orthodox and that says it all.” As Sports Illustrated pointed out, the Russian orthodox church’s position on the subject is straightforward: “This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on a path of self-destruction.” The Russian church’s position on Ukraine is, of course, not the least bit more encouraging.

But just how strong are the convictions of these players in their support for Russia? One thing’s for sure, they very much enjoy their American salaries and won’t be too thrilled if Russia continues to clamp down on American imports.


For the readers:

Should Russian athletes, especially those playing in the U.S. capital, be allowed to display off-ice support for anti-Western or anti-American views? Leave a comment below

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  • Brent

    Go home to the KHL you ‘katsaps’. You like the North American lifestyle, North American freedoms and yet you support your tyrant President for invading a peaceful neighbor.

    • Svarun

      The funniest part is that children of the top Russian “patriots” bashing “decadent & rotten” West – including Putin’s and Medvedev’s ones – actually live in the West.

      Russian elites, save your children from the alleged fascism and bring them back home. BTW, according to the Russian newspeak a term “fascist” means an opponent of Russian government, not a militant, xenophobic, homophobic, chauvinistic ultra nationalist.

      • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

        Hence the ironic coca cola and mcdonalds pics. Driving around in Mercedes’ and bashing fascist westernism.

        • Brent

          Don’t forget…
          >talking on their I-Phone
          >wearing Dolce & Gabana
          >watching Hollywood movies
          >wearing Tag Heuer watches
          all from the “evil” West…

          The can go back to wearing potato sacks and rubber boots, real traditional Russian fashion.

          Personally, I am boycotting Ovechkin and Malkin in my hockey pools this year…yeah that will show them!!! They can ‘break their agreements’ and run back to the Katsap Hockey League just like Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk…..I guess Putin was just doing what comes natural to Russians by reneging on the Budapest Memorandums…

    • Milton Devonair

      They’re russians, so they’re ignorant people. They cannot make the connection you just made.

  • tga999

    This is what you get when you combine Kremlin propaganda with hundreds of knocks to the head.

  • Mykola Potytorsky

    if that is the stance these ruSSian hockey players believe than we in North America DO NOT WANT them to pollute our hockey rinks, go to the khl, a minor league and earn rubulls instead. get lost

  • Ash C Moncure

    They must be silenced by team owners and League President.

  • Dirk Smith

    How disappointing. World-class athletes who have travelled the world, but still support fascism. Their countrymen will starve this winter while they trade gifts with Slobodan Putler.

  • Dr. Stanley Wesolowsky Ph.D.

    These Russian players in North America know better
    but act in a perverse fashion out of a twisted self-glorification.

  • George Peters

    NHL fans should BOO these hypocrite players every time they step on the ice as long as they play in North America.

  • Randall Cook

    They love Putin & RuSSia so much, they should be deported there & live out their insane ‘dreams’.

  • sandy miller

    Send the bastards back to Russia. Ukrainian embassy should request the NFL that these players are sanctioned and sent back to Russia. All Ukrainians should send letters to the NFL. Disgusting stance they are encouraging war and murder.

    • jwz

      NHL, not NFL.

  • Bohdan Wynnycky

    Russian chauvanism = racism. They should be held in the same regard as the KKK, meaning openly spat upon.

  • Dave Ralph

    There should be a major deportation campaign against Russians residing in the US, and it should start with these guys.

  • Mazepa

    Smert katzapam!
    Ovechkin must be seagal’s other boyfriend….

  • Vasyl Pawlowsky

    It is time for those whose game is Hockey, patricularly Canada to make sure these scum don’t step on Canadian soil. The owners of the teams they paly for should be shamed into even holding on to the! The NHL should make sure teams can break the contracts of such scum and send them back to Moscovia to play for their blessed KHL a project of Gazprom. Ovechkin for one is a sheep shagger, based on his name! The likes of Malkin who seems to comes pretty close to being a worshipper of Stalin should also not be welcome in any democraty nation, he should only be allowed to fly on Aeroflot, and should be added to every no-fly list avialable. Pavel Datsyuk is simply an ass licker of the FSB – The Russian Orthodox church has been subjugated to the Secret Services of Mosvovia… since the last normal Patriarch in Moscovia – Tikhon.

    • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

      Ideally this should be brought to Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk, as he’s a huge supporter of Ukraine and of boycotting Russia in FIFA.

      • Brent

        The interesting thing is there are only 2 more or less significant name Russian players still on any Canadian NHL team’s rosters, Andrei Markov in Montreal and Nail Yakupov in Edmonton. Long gone are the days of Yashin, Zhamnov, Khabibulin, Kulemin, Mogilny and Bure and all the other Russians ‘floating’ through an NHL season on a Canadian team’s roster. Most seem to prefer the more evil and decadent U.S. cities…Don Cherry must be proud!

        • http://euromaidanpress.com Mat

          Nothing evil about the U.S….

        • Vasyl Pawlowsky

          We have to differentiate between those who overtly support the dick head Putin and his genocidal mission against Ukraine and those who are no longer being his prostitutes!

      • Vasyl Pawlowsky

        Mat, don’t worry. Eugene will be finding out about this. I have my ways!

  • Milton Devonair

    Well, they are russians, so why not ‘ape on ape’ love?

    http://elitedaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/orton_bulldog_display_image1.png

  • jwz

    This has gone beyond bringing politics into sports. Malkin, Ovehckin, and the other Russians started it by making their political statements. Any fan reaction at this point is fair game. I’m sure their visas can (and should) be revoked, making them unwelcome to enter either the US or Canada. If Bettman wants to argue that these clowns are the faces of the game, then he should be questioned whether that is the face he wants to present.

    Malkin’s “famous” parents also should be prohibited from entering the country in the future.

  • Dean Venture

    As a Canadian hockey fan, I think we should extend sanctions to banning the import of hockey talent from Russia. They can go home and live in glorious worker’s paradise.

    They won’t be able to enjoy McDonalds anymore, but they will no longer have to endure the civil liberties, human rights, and pluralistic societies espoused by us western fascists.

    • Jane Rand

      The sad truth is that they don’t need any civil liberties. They would be happy in Russia, adored by fans and enjoying famous “for friends – everything”.
      Until they stop being stars and squander their millions, of course. But then who will care?

  • Vlad Pufagtinenko

    Thank goodness the Montreal Canadiens are not tainted by this Russian sc*m

  • Yaro

    Can’t believe how short-brained they are. I guess except the hokey, it is long enough to comprehend only russian tv from Moskow.

  • Cold N. Holefield

    It’s time to send the Russians packing, but so too should the Western Russian apologists be sent packing. I’m stunned at the number of non-Russian Russian water carriers — some of whom are former U.S. military personnel.

    We all know this will eventually extend beyond Ukraine, and at that point it will be war between Russia and The West. I believe it is already, but for certain it will be then. All these people, the Russian hockey players and the Western non-Russian Putin apologists, should be considered enemies of Freedom and Democracy and deported to Russia where they belong. What they engage in is not freedom of speech and expression but rather propaganda which we all know is an abuse and undermining of freedom of speech and expression. I would love to see the following dirtbag shipped off to Moscow where he belongs, because we all know Putin would in no time send him to the contemporary version of The Gulag.

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/

  • Kondrashkin

    Good for Ovechkin, Malkin and co. I wish more Western athletes would act like them and speak out against injustices.

    • Michael Zed

      Publicly glorifying Russia’s surprise military invasion and occupation of Ukraine in Crimea. Labelling Ukrainians “fascists” because they opposed Russian mercenaries and commandos taking over public institutions in the east, and Russia sending thousands of “volunteers” and a million tons of arms and ammunition into their country.

      These boys are all about justice. The surviving Ukrainian children must be so grateful.