HomeSportsUS and Canada ask Russian KHL players to leave the country

US and Canada ask Russian KHL players to leave the country


Americans playing in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League have found themselves in a difficult position amid calls from the US and Canadian governments for them to leave the country due to the war in Ukraine.

The Canadian government has advised its citizens to leave Russia while commercial means are still available, warning that anyone holding a Russian passport could be subject to a call for compulsory military service. Earlier this week, the US Embassy in Moscow issued the same security alert for Americans in Russia, urging them to leave.

FILE – Kunlun Red Star’s Ryan Sproul, right, from Canada, battles for the puck with Amur’s Radan Lenc, left, during the Kontinental Hockey League ice hockey game between Kunlun Red Star Beijing and Amur Khabarovsk in Mytishchi, in outside Moscow, Russia, on November 15, 2021. Americans who play in the Russia-based KHL have found themselves in a difficult position amid calls from the US and Canadian governments for them to leave the country due to the war in Ukraine.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

The moves come a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for more troops to be mobilized to fight in Ukraine and nearly two months since American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner was convicted of drug possession and smuggling.

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She was sentenced to nine years in prison for the cannabis oil cartridges that police said they found in her luggage on February 17 when she landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

According to Elite Prospects, which tracks player movement around hockey, 13 Americans and 43 Canadians have signed a new contract or re-signed to play for the KHL since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, sparking a war that shows no signs of abating. . Not all of them play for teams based in Russia because the KHL also has teams in Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The KHL responded to the US Embassy alert by saying that anyone who is not a Russian citizen is not subject to compulsory military service and that mobilization orders do not void any contracts.

Allain Roy, an agent who represents eight North American players in the KHL, said he was still processing the latest call for American and Canadian citizens to leave and said it was “definitely a concern.” He added that he would discuss the matter with each client individually.

FILE - San Jose Sharks forward Alexander Barabanov of Russia controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif.  Russian players on two NHL teams that open the season in the Czech Republic will be able to participate in both Global Series games in Prague after all.  Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, to The Associated Press that the Czech government has withdrawn its attempted ban on Russian players for San Jose and Nashville.

FILE – San Jose Sharks forward Alexander Barabanov of Russia controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. Russian players on two NHL teams that open the season in the Czech Republic will be able to participate in both Global Series games in Prague after all. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, to The Associated Press that the Czech government has withdrawn its attempted ban on Russian players for San Jose and Nashville.
(AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu, File)

Ritch Winter, who represents three Canadians in the KHL, defended his clients’ ability to calculate the “risk-reward analysis” that goes into playing there.

“There isn’t a single client that I represent that didn’t struggle with this decision,” Winter said. “I haven’t heard anyone concerned about their safety… Nobody who is there now and has been there in the past has noticed a significant difference in the way of life there, so they are there. They are playing and they are comfortable. Now, If the situation changes drastically, I hope that some of them can reconsider, like the players did last time (spring).”

Travel to and through Russia has been in the spotlight since Griner was arrested in February, tried and jailed amid pleas for her release and US talks to release her.

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FILE - WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted from the courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, on August 4, 2022.

FILE – WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted from the courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki, outside Moscow, Russia, on August 4, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

William E. Pomeranz, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute and author of a book on Russian legal developments, said problems could arise out of nowhere for Americans or Canadians gambling in Russia. He said the presence of Capitals star Alex Ovechkin and other Russians playing in the NHL in North America would not be a deterrent.

“The fact that Ovechkin is in Washington I don’t think it will have any impact on some poor Canadian hockey player if they decide they want to make an example of him,” Pomeranz said. “I don’t think anybody should think that just because they’re hockey players and there are Russian hockey players in the United States that you somehow can’t get caught up in the Russian legal system, because if you get caught up in the Russian legal system, there’s no exit”.

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Many other agents representing North American players in the KHL declined to comment or did not respond to messages seeking comment.



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