No disrespect to Canada in leaving ice early after hockey final – Russian officials, players

Russia's players after being defeated in the finals of the 2015 IIHF World Championship. Canada vs. Russia.(RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)
Russia’s hockey squad left the ice before listening to the anthem of World Championship final winners, Canada. But it wasn’t a walkout in protest, just an organizational blunder, Russian sports officials and players said.

Russia suffered a painful 6-1 loss to Canada in the deciding match of the IIHF Hockey World Championship in the Czech capital of Prague on Sunday night.

After the game, the Russian players received their silver medals and most of the team left for the locker room before the national anthem of newly-crowned champions Canada was played.

Only a handful of Russian team’s members remained on the O2 Arena ice, which included the country’s top stars, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin.

The head of hockey’s governing body, IIHF, Rene Fasel, called Russia’s behavior “unacceptable” and promised to sanction the country’s hockey federation.

“It was disrespectful towards the opposing team. I was very disappointed and upset by this fact. This goes against our rules of fair play… I do not accept such behavior. I have great respect for Russia and Russian hockey, and it was very difficult to observe such behavior,” Fasel told the R-Sport news agency.

The IIHF president said his organization will discuss possible sanctions against Russia on Tuesday and that he’ll “personally see to them being applied.”

Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, stressed that what happened in Prague wasn’t done on purpose by the country’s hockey team, but didn’t object to possible sanctions from the IIHF.

READ MORE: Canada destroys Russia in world hockey final

"If they view it as a lack of respect ... So it goes, if they’ll punish us – it’ll be the right thing. If there is such a protocol and the participants are aware of it then everybody must follow it,” Mutko said.

“There are sporting rules, players must treat each other with respect, but I don’t think that it was a walk out in protest,” he added.

The minister’s words were echoed by Russian Hockey Federation president and legendary goalkeeper, Vladislav Tretyak, who stressed the country’s players have great respect for their Canadian colleagues.

“Our team congratulated the Canadians with victory and shook hands with them. There’s no conflict. Team Russia respects the Canadian team, which played well game and deservedly won,” he said.

“Usually, the competition organizers supervise such ceremonies, but this time it turned out that the gates leading to the locker rooms ware opened immediately after the match. There was some kind of confusion, an organizational blunder,” Tretyak told Tass news agency.

Canadian players, winners of the gold medals at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, during the award ceremony.(RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Sokolov)

The Russian players also said that them leaving the ice too early shouldn’t be treated as “some kind of a gesture.”

“There was no disrespect towards the rivals. We just looked at each other, didn’t understand what to do and went to the locker room,” Egor Yakovlev, Russia’s defender, said.

Forward Nikolay Kulemin stressed that what happened at the O2 Arena was “just a misunderstanding, nothing more.”

“The guys just didn’t know that they have to remain on the ice and wait till the end. Everybody was upset and thought that it was already over,” he said.

It’s worth noting that the Russian players had little experience of losing world championship finals before Sunday’s game. They have played for the hockey crown on five occasions since 2008 and failed to win just once.

There’s no direct instruction in the IIHF regulations for the losing team to listen to the anthem of the winners, RIA Novosti reported after looking over the rules.

The participants of the hockey match are only obliged to take their helmets off and shake hands with the opposing squad members and the referees, which was done by the Russian team on Sunday.