The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks are set to play a regular season hockey game in the Czech capital next month
The Czech Foreign Ministry has made it clear to the NHL that Russian players are not welcome in Prague next month.
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks are scheduled to play two regular-season games at the Czech capital’s O2 Arena on October 7-8.
Although defender Nikolai Knyzhov is unavailable for the Sharks, they also have Russian forward Evgeny Svechnikov while Nashville has compatriot Yakov Trenin on their books.
As communicated in a statement by Deputy Foreign Secretary Martin Smolek, and shared by the AP, the players would be an unwanted part of the NHL’s trip to his country.
“We can confirm that the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a letter to the NHL to emphasize that, for the time being, the Czech Republic or any other state in the (visa-free) Schengen zone should not issue visas to Russian players. to enter our territory”, Smolek said.
The ministry added that the North American elite hockey league had been informed of “ongoing negotiations on the entry ban for citizens of the Russian Federation who had already received valid visas before.”
The letter comes after legendary former goaltender and two-time Stanley Cup winner Dominik Hasek made calls to ban Russian players from traveling to Prague when games were announced in April.
Hasek personally approached the Czech government, parliament, senate and foreign ministry and said the decision was “very important for the support of our Ukrainian ally and the safety of our citizens”, in an interview with a Russian broadcaster which was not aired but later published in Czech media.
“Yes, we don’t want any promotion of Russian aggression here,” Hasak tweeted praising the ministry’s decision.
“We protect our lives and those of our allies first,” he claimed.
Hasek and the Ministry’s position should perhaps not come as a surprise considering Hasek required than the NHL “must immediately suspend the contracts of all Russian players” February 26 at the start of the military operation in Ukraine.
“Each athlete represents not only himself and his club, but also his country, his values and his actions. That’s a fact. If the NHL fails to do so, it has indirect co-responsibility for the deaths in Ukraine,” he added. Hasek continued.
In addition, the Czech Republic was among the first EU countries to no longer issue visas to Russians.
According to Russian media, however, the NHL does not expect any legal obstacles for Russian players to participate in games in Prague.
“If they arise, the league will not play the scheduled matches in the Czech Republic and the clubs will play at home. The clubs are ready,” a source told RIA Novosti.
The two games in Prague mark the first time the NHL has headed to the EU since the pandemic. In addition, the home of hockey Tampere in Finland will also host the Colorado Avalanche and the Columbus Blue Jackets for a pair of games on November 4 and 5.
The defending Stanley Cup champions Colorado Avalanche have Alexandar Georgiev, Mikhail Maltsev and Valeri Nichushkin on their roster, and the Blue Jackets can usually count on the talents of Yegor Chinakhov, Vladislav Gavrikov and Daniil Tarasov, although the latter is currently injured.
While the Finnish government’s stance on welcoming Russian players is unclear, Finnish hockey chiefs have previously said they will block all players who feature in the Russian Continental Hockey League (KHL) from the national team alongside Sweden.