Welcome Matt: Ovechkin arrives in Vancouver with troubling Putin ties

Mar 11 2022, 12:37 am

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Alexander Ovechkin is in town tomorrow night, and with one goal he can pass Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL’s all-time goals list.

Jagr turned 50 last month, and is the best ever player to play for the Washington Capitals, if not the all-time Capital — a title that surely rests with Ovechkin after delivering the first Stanley Cup to that market back in 2018.

Jagr wore No. 68 throughout his illustrious career because that year Soviet tanks rolled into his homeland of Czechoslovakia to crush an uprising.

Here’s wondering if a future Ukrainian player will wear No. 22, because substitute Soviet for Russia, and Czechoslovakia for Ukraine, and you have a similar situation playing out just as Ovi approaches the record.

Ovechkin has allowed himself to be the chief sporting propagandist of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has wished Putin happy birthday on a least four occasions, has spread New Year’s Eve messages and Kremlin missives.

In 2014 he bought into the dubious pretext that Russia invaded Ukraine to save it from fascism, and five years ago founded a loose, informal organization called “PutinTeam.”

It is now clear that the initial statement Ovechkin read after the invasion was not suffice. The Capitals put out a second statement this week condemning the invasion, but pledging “full support” of their Russian players “and their families overseas.”

Sure hope the Capitals investigated the activities of those family members overseas, because that’s a big and unequivocal statement. Today’s military men could be tomorrow’s war criminals.

Ovechkin continues to use an Instagram avatar picturing him beside Putin, and that statement he read now sounds eerily similar to what Russian influencers are saying to drum up support for the invasion.

I’m so glad the Canucks held a record-breaking 50/50 in support of Ukraine last night and I hope there’s more philanthropy and attention paid to that country tomorrow for Ovechkin to see.

Because his number-sake, Dmitri Khristich, a former Capital who wore 8 has plead for help for his homeland. And Dominik Hasek, the Hall of Fame goaltender turned politician, has said that if the NHL won’t suspend Russian players, then let’s see where they stand.

Who among them will pledge their wages to Ukrainian relief?

The NHL and the Capitals must be getting nervous now.

The league is infamous for empty statements and no action, and that looks like Gary Bettman’s game-plan again.

But as the world does its best to isolate Putin and Russia, so it isolates the NHL.

The day may well be coming where the NHL’s Russian players are the only Putin propagandist that don’t face consequences.

Matthew SekeresMatthew Sekeres

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