One of the great Stanley Cup traditions won’t be allowed to fully play out this offseason for political reasons.
Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the NHL has made the decision to prevent the championship trophy from visiting Russia and Belarus.
“With respect to this summer, the Cup isn’t going to Russia or Belarus,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a media conference Wednesday prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “To that extent, we may owe a Cup trip in the future. That can happen like we did with the pandemic, but it’s not happening this summer.”
There are Russian players on both sides of the Stanley Cup Final. Three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s biggest stars in Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Mikhail Sergachev hail from the nation, while Valeri Nichushkin is the lone Russian suiting up for the Colorado Avalanche. Those players won’t necessarily be denied a trip home with Lord Stanley’s mug in the future, but they will have to wait for more clarity from the league.
Preventing the Stanley Cup from visiting Russia is the latest move the NHL has made to distance itself from the country. The league has severed business ties with Russia due to the war in Ukraine, and suspended its agreement with the KHL in March.
Numerous NHL players and alumni have spoken out against the war, with Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek repeatedly calling for the league to suspend all active Russian NHLers. Hasek also took aim at Alex Ovechkin, a noted Vladimir Putin supporter, for his initial comments when Russia first invaded Ukraine.
“It’s a tough situation. I have lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine. And it’s hard to see the war. I hope soon it’s going to be over and there is going to be peace in the whole world,” Ovechkin said at the time.
“He’s my president. But how I said, I’m not in politics, I’m an athlete.”
Earlier this spring, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that Russian-born players would indeed be eligible for the 2022 draft after speculation that they wouldn’t be permitted.
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