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Alexander Ovechkin with an NHL milestone: Russia’s ice hockey hero fights to hold his ground in Putin’s war

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Alexander Ovechkin might be glad he didn’t score his 767th NHL career goal a few days earlier, because instead of thunderous applause, he would have heard loud whistles. The 36-year-old Russian is now only third on the all-time NHL scoring list thanks to his goal on Wednesday night. Only Gordie Howe with 801 and Wayne Gretzky with 894 hits are ahead of him.

For his teammates and the spectators at the Capital One Arena in Washington, that was cause for loud cheers. For Canadian ice hockey fans, on the other hand, it would have been more of an opportunity for more boos and whistles for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friend.

Since Russia attacked Ukraine more than two weeks ago and numerous sanctions have also hit the country’s teams and athletes, the focus has been on those who can still play. This is how Daniil Medvedev felt at the Indian Wells Tennis Masters and this is how Ovechkin feels.

Although the NHL cut all business relations with Russia relatively quickly and stopped its Russian-language appearances on the Internet, it also clearly supported the Russian professionals who play in the best ice hockey league in the world. Ovechkin remains an unpopular person in the eyes of many fans outside of Washington; after all, he has been friends with Putin for years and did not distance himself from him even in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea.

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On the contrary, he allowed himself to be taken advantage of by Putin’s propaganda and campaigned for the elections. The fact that his 1.6 million followers can still see a photo of him with Putin when they visit his Instagram profile is also disturbing and upsetting many people these days. Particularly in Canada, where the 1.4 million people with an immigration background from Ukraine form the largest group outside Ukraine and Russia, according to the New York Times.

So it was no surprise that Ovechkin was the bogeyman on the ice at last week’s games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Even his goofy-looking press conference shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine didn’t help him in the public eye.

He wanted peace and not war, he said. He also said “Please stop the war”, but did not have a concrete answer to all the direct questions about what he thought of the invasion or if he still supported Putin.

Because he spoke for peace, there were hateful comments from Russian war supporters.

However, it is probably also the case – the “New York Times” reported last week – that even these comments, which were seen as unconvincing in the US and Canada, were enough to make Russian supporters of the war make nasty comments about your Cash social media profiles. Supposedly, it was also planned to replace the profile picture with Putin after the press conference with a symbol of peace, which later did not happen due to concerns about the safety of Ovechkin’s family in Russia.

Even after his goal to make it 3-2 in a 4-3 penalty shootout against the New York Islanders, Ovechkin never uttered any criticism of Putin or the war, instead wearing the We Are Athletes kit and nothing political. . “We just play hockey and enjoy our time,” he said.

He expressly regretted that his family could not be in the room for this milestone in his career. “It sucks, of course, that my kids haven’t seen it, my wife hasn’t seen it, my parents, but they’re watching it at home. They are happy and that is the most important thing,” she said. The joy of the capital’s fans could also be heard well in videos. (dpa)

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