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1 Feb, 2020 18:15

Breaking the ice: Hockey-loving new US ambassador visits Moscow game… and reveals his favorite player is RUSSIAN

America’s new ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, said ice hockey could help bring the two nations closer together as he visited a game in Moscow, also singing the praises of his favorite player, Russia's Alexander Ovechkin.

Sullivan took up his post earlier this year, and as an avid hockey fan wasted little time in arranging a visit to a game in the Russian capital.

The American diplomat was at the local derby between Moscow clubs Spartak and Dynamo on Saturday, where, suitably dressed in a Washington Capitals NHL jersey, he dropped the ceremonial first puck alongside Russian hockey legends Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexander Yakushev.


Later in the stands at Moscow's CSKA Arena, Sullivan talked up how “hockey diplomacy” and a shared love of the sport could bring Russia and the US closer together.

“Hockey diplomacy sounds almost frivolous, but it’s something that Americans, Russians, Canadians and Germans and Finns, we have in common, we love this game...,” Sullivan told RT and RIA Novosti.

“I used this as an opportunity upon my arrival to say, ‘Look, Americans and Russians have a lot in common, including our love of this game’...

It’s great fun for me but it’s also a useful way – if you’ll pardon the pun – to break the ice and start a conversation about all of the interests and shared values we have.

A big fan of the Washington Capitals, Sullivan revealed that his favorite player was the team’s Russian captain, Alexander 'the Great 8' Ovechkin.

“My favorite player plays for my hometeam club, the Washington Capitals, Sasha Ovechkin, soon going to score his 700th [NHL] goal, he scored two last night,” Sullivan said, adding that the big Russian was “a special player and a special person, and an ambassador of the game.”


Sullivan shares his love of hockey with a number of top-level Russian officials, not least President Vladimir Putin.

Putin is often seen out on the ice as part of the Night Hockey League, where he plays with fellow officials and former professionals.


As for the all-important question of whether he would take up an invitation to play alongside Putin – or possibly face off against him – Sullivan offered a diplomatic response.

I would be in a Russian game as a guest, and as a diplomat I would sit where my hosts asked me to and, if I were so honored, would play where they asked me to.

“I will say that my hockey gear hasn’t arrived yet from Washington, it’s with my furniture.

“So Slava [Fetisov] was asking me if I wanted to go out and skate, but I don’t have my gear yet… But I will start playing once that gets here,” he said.

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