Hockey veteran denies Russian move after backlash in homeland
Russian ice hockey team Spartak Moscow have said they are set for a legal battle with Latvian star Miks Indrasis after he claimed he had not signed for the team, despite reports to the contrary.
Spartak announced at the end of June that they had signed a one-year deal with Indrasis, who has represented the Latvian national team for the past decade.
The news triggered an outcry in Indrasis’ homeland, where the state parliament declared back in April that any Latvian athletes who appear for Russian teams would be banned from representing their country.
But taking to social media on Tuesday, the 31-year-old Indrasis denied that he had entered into a contract with Spartak.
“The information published by Spartak Moscow about me joining this club is not true, I have no valid contract with this club!” wrote the veteran winger.
“Quite the opposite – I have an existing contract with another team. Spartak is unhappy with my refusal to play in Russia, so this is their behavior!” added Indrasis.
The player said he “condemns” Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
“I am a Latvian patriot and my attitude to my country has always been expressed in the [sports arena], wearing the shirt in nine consecutive World Championships!” said Indrasis, also hitting out at the social media backlash he had faced in recent days.
Spartak have responded to Indrasis’ claims by insisting they do have a valid contract with him, suggesting the matter would be settled by lawyers.
“The contract between Spartak and the striker of the Latvian national team Miks Indrasis was signed in accordance with the regulations and registered with the KHL [Kontinental Hockey League] Central Information Bureau,” read a statement from the team.
“All KHL contracts are recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and must be executed. The question of the current contract between Spartak and Miks Indrasis will be decided in the legal field, and not in the public space.
“If the player decides not to fulfill the terms of the contract, he must pay compensation to the club in accordance with the KHL regulations,” it added.
Indrasis has previously played for Russian teams Dynamo Moscow, Vityaz and Admiral Vladivostok. He spent the end of last season at EHC Biel in the Swiss National League.
Latvia is not the only country to attempt to dissuade its hockey stars from playing for Russian teams.
The Swedish and Finnish hockey authorities have both said they will not consider players for national team selection if they decide to sign new deals with clubs in Russia.
That stance could affect Swedish defenseman Robin Press, who recently extended his contract with Severstal Cherepovets in the KHL.
The KHL will also lose teams from Finland and Latvia next season, after Helsinki’s Jokerit and Dinamo Riga both withdrew from the Russia-based league because of the conflict in Ukraine.
At a diplomatic level, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto recently told the media in Italy that he would no longer consider playing hockey with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, with the pair having previously taken to the ice together back in 2012.