Russian hockey bosses deny pushing ‘pro-war campaign’
The Russian Ice Hockey Federation has rejected suggestions that it ordered teams in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) to carry out “pro-war” activities at matches, after the sport’s international governing body said it was probing allegations.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) released a statement on Thursday announcing it was referring two cases to its Ethics Board – one involving former IIHF president Rene Fasel and the other regarding the Russian hockey authorities.
“The IIHF Council has referred the Russian Ice Hockey Federation to the Ethics Board for review, due to reports that the RIHF allegedly sent instructions to Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) teams to take demonstrative actions in support of the Russia-Ukraine war,” the statement read.
“As such an action would constitute a violation of the IIHF Ethics Code, the Ethics Board will investigate further and determine whether this case will be referred to the IIHF Disciplinary Board.”
Slogans such as ‘We don’t abandon our own’, ‘For Russia’, and ‘Together for Peace’ have been among the banners seen at recent KHL matches, although Russian hockey officials denied that any orders had been issued to teams.
“The Russian Hockey Federation does not contact the KHL clubs on any issues, except for the call of players to national teams,” read a statement.
“The Russian Hockey Federation did not send letters to the KHL clubs and did not otherwise contact the KHL clubs with a request to support any campaigns.”
The IIHF case surrounding Fasel – who is an honorary ‘life president’ of the organization – seemingly focuses on comments the Swiss native made after Russia and Belarus were banned following the military offensive in Ukraine.
Fasel, 72, described the suspensions as a “sad moment in IIHF history” and argued that “sport must carry the message of peace and united people.”
“The IIHF Council also decided to refer IIHF Life President Rene Fasel to the Ethics Board for review, following reports of his involvement with Russia and the KHL as well as public statements made about the war,” said the IIHF statement.
“The IIHF has referred this matter to the independent Ethics Board in order to determine whether Fasel’s actions have violated the IIHF Integrity Book.”
In comments to Match TV, the KHL press service denied that Fasel, who retired from the IIHF last year, was on the payroll of the organization.
“Rene Fasel is not and was not an employee of the KHL and has never provided services to the organization on a reimbursable basis,” said a spokesperson.
“All these years, Rene Fasel has equally helped different leagues and countries with his knowledge and experience in the development of hockey.”
The Russia-based KHL – which has featured teams from Belarus, Finland, Latvia, China and Kazakhstan – is seen as the world’s second biggest hockey league after the North American NHL.
Just as with other sports, Russian hockey has been hit with sanctions in the wake of Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine.
The IIHF announced on February 28 that it was banning all Russian and Belarusian teams from its competitions at all levels “until further notice,” also stripping Russia of the World Junior Championships due to be held in the country in December and January.
A decision is looming on the men’s 2023 World Championships due to be hosted in St. Petersburg next May.