Russian NHL star Ovechkin in the crosshairs for his support of Putin

Russian NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin, who plays in Washington, has come under heavy criticism in the United States for his longtime support of Vladimir Putin.

Ovechkin, 36, is a figure in the North American Ice Hockey League. A hero for Washington Capitals fans since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Since his country, Russia, launched its military action against Ukraine last week, he finds himself in the eye of the storm. The Moscow native has never hid from being a staunch supporter of Putin, even going so far as to launch a website called “PutinTeamin 2017 which urged his compatriots to unite behind the Russian leader.

« I am convinced that many of us support Vladimir Putin. So let’s unite and show everyone a united and strong Russia!“, he wrote.

If the current profile photo on his Instagram account shows him posing proudly alongside the Russian leader, a big hockey fan, he appeared more uncomfortable at a press conference on February 24, a few hours after the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

« Please no more warhe implored. « It doesn’t matter who is at war – Russia, Ukraine or other countries – I think we have to live in peace.»

« sissy»

Asked if his support for Putin remains so strong, Ovechkin kicked in touch: “Cis my president. But as I said, I don’t do politics. I am an athlete. I am Russian. It’s something I can’t control. I hope it will end soon.»

Remarks coldly received by several North American media.

« To say he feels helpless is a disingenuous attempt to downplay his importance. As one of Russia’s most internationally famous athletes, revered at home by fans of the country’s most popular discipline, he could make a difference by speaking out. He chose not to“, criticizes the site SB Nationwho calls Ovechkin « asycophantic coward« .

Believing that « it is not true that Ovechkin cannot do anything« , the Montreal Gazette called on the player to « use his considerable power to knock the tyrant off his pedestal« . « It’s a defining moment in many lives, including hers. One day, he will be remembered as much for his deeds as for his goals.»

But the biggest blow received came from a former NHL star, the Czech Dominik Hasek, who called him « sissyon Twitter, accusing him of cowardice for not condemning Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

Risks for his family

Ovechkin’s defenders argue that he is unable to speak out against Putin’s wrongdoing because members of his family are still in Russia. However, human rights groups regularly accuse the Russian authorities of carrying out a brutal crackdown on anyone who publicly criticizes the conflict.

What the site SB Nation has also agreed, while emphasizing that others have however had the courage. « By asking him to speak out, it is obvious that this undoubtedly comes with a huge risk for his family. Just as those who spoke out against Putin’s regime, including those in political exile, took a huge risk.»

Several Russian athletes have clearly stated their opposition to the war, tennis player Andrey Rublev or footballer Fedor Smolov. However, Ovechkin’s uncomfortable position did not penalize him sportingly since the NHL, unlike most international sports bodies, does not prohibit Russian hockey players from playing.

« We remain concerned about the welfare of Russian players, who play in the NHL on behalf of their club and not on behalf of Russia. We understand that they and their families are placed in an extremely difficult position“, declared Monday evening the league, while announcing the suspension of its commercial contracts with Russia.

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