Hockey icon wants jail threat to deter stars from playing in Russia
Retired ice hockey star Dominik Hasek says his fellow Czech players should be prohibited from appearing for Russian-based clubs in the KHL, claiming that doing so offers complicit support for Russia's actions in Ukraine and that a 15-year prison term would serve as a deterrent.
Hasek, 57, is one of his country's most successful hockey exports, being crowned a two-time Stanley Cup champion in the NHL before retiring after a single season spent with HC Spartak Moscow in the 2010-11 season.
However, Hasek has recently been a critic of the decision made by Czech international (and Russian-born) player Dmitrij Jaskin, who is returning to the KHL with SKA Saint Petersburg after a year playing in the NHL for the Arizona Coyotes.
Jaskin joins Czech compatriots Libor Sulak and Rudolf Cerven in making similar moves to the KHL, but writing on his Twitter account Hasek indicated that he is far from happy at the actions of the trio - especially after the KHL has seen a wave of foreign players leave Russian teams since February.
"I'm very sorry. The work of a Czech citizen in the Russian Federation is support for the Russian regime, the war in Ukraine, and therefore a danger to our country and its citizens," Hasek wrote, via translation.
"However, I don't blame the player or his agent, but the government and the Parliament of the Czech Republic for not having adopted a law that prohibits this.
"It is the duty of the government of the Czech Republic to protect us from this behavior. Our lives are at stake! Don't bury your head in the sand!!!"
He added: "So I believe that, for example, 15 years in prison for working in the enemy's country in the Russian Federation would be very helpful. It would certainly increase the protection of us and our allies and probably save many lives."
Jaskin's situation, though, appears slightly more complicated. While he represents the Czech Republic on the international scene and is registered as a foreign player in the KHL, he was born in Omsk, Russia, before he moved to the Czech Republic at the age of just eight months.
Several figures formerly within the KHL have noted their opposition to the conflict in Ukraine.
Finnish team Jokerit announced that they would withdraw from the league for the remainder of the season shortly after the launch of military campaign in late February. Dinamo Riga of Latvia announced a similar move days later.
Former goaltender Hasek, meanwhile, has consistently been a prominent critic of Russia's military action in Ukraine, having previously called for the suspension of all Russian players in the NHL.
The NHL announced in March that it was cutting ties to its Russian business partners, while also removing any officials links to they had to the KHL.
Elsewhere, the hockey authorities in Latvia, Finland and Sweden have all said they will not consider players for national team duty if they play at Russian clubs.