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25 Aug, 2022 14:29

Russian hockey boss allays foreigners’ Griner fears

Ivan Savin has moved to ease concerns from foreign players moving to Russia
Russian hockey boss allays foreigners’ Griner fears

Ivan Savin, the former Russian ice hockey star who now serves as General Manager for KHL team Traktor Chelyabinsk, says that foreign players joining Russian teams need not be concerned by the case of US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was recently sentenced to nine years in jail after being found guilty of trafficking drugs into the country. 

Griner, 31, was detained at a Moscow airport in February after she was found to be in possession of cannabis vape cartridges for which she had been legally prescribed in the United States but which remain illegal in Russia, leading to her being hit with a jail term earlier this month.

Griner is one of the most prominent female basketball players in the world and has represented Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2015 during the WNBA offseason.

And the legal wrangling surrounding the Griner case, Savin says, has led to some concerns from potential foreign recruits into Russian teams that they could face similar issues. 

But as Savin told Sport24.ru, there is one surefire way to avoid any legal trouble: don't commit crimes.

When negotiating with foreigners, the example of basketball player Brittney Griner often pops up,” he said.

“They say: 'We will fly to Russia, and they will arrest us!' We answer them: 'Do not bring drugs with you, and everything will be fine.'”

Our negotiations are based on working with objections and fears. We are ready to meet all these requirements. Especially with regard to security in Chelyabinsk. I am sure that our fans will lift up foreigners in their arms,” he added.

Traktor Chelyabinsk's current roster shows just a handful of players not holding Russian nationality, including Finland's Teemu Pulkkinen, as well as the Belarusian pair of Andrei Stas and Kirill Ustimenko.

Nick Bailen and Deron Quint, though, are well-known American players who have previously represented Traktor Chelyabinsk.

Bailen left the team just last month to move to German team Kolner Haie. It is unknown if the Griner situation was a factor in the mutual decision to cancel his contract.

Quint, who played numerous seasons in the NHL, retired several years ago.