EU country confirms punishment for Russia-based hockey stars
Swedish ice hockey officials have confirmed that any players who continue to appear in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) will no longer be called up for the national team. The decision has been looming for several months after officials suggested that they would likely take the step.
Swedish Ice Hockey Association chairman Anders Larsson confirmed the development to national media on Tuesday, telling Sportbladet: “We have come to the conclusion that it is not compatible to play in the KHL and at the same time represent Sweden in the national team under the current circumstances.”
Larsson added that the decision was based on “our principle of values and what Swedish ice hockey stands for” and claimed that it was “important that we are clear in this regard given the situation in the world.”
The sanction will remain in place “until further notice,” but Larsson did not rule out a change in policy depending on how circumstances develop.
The participation of Swedish hockey stars for Russian teams has become a heated topic following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine.
Defenseman Robin Press, 27, was among those affected when he extended his contract with Severstal Cherepovets back in June.
Along with Press, other Swedes who have contracts with KHL clubs for next season are goaltender Adam Reideborn of CSKA Moscow, fellow goalie Johan Mattsson of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, CSKA Moscow defenseman Fredrik Claesson, Avangard Omsk defenseman Viktor Svedberg, and Dynamo Moscow forward Jakob Lilja.
Elsewhere, Latvian officials took a similar step to block Russia-based players from the national team earlier this summer when the country’s parliament, the Saeima, ruled on the matter. The Finnish hockey authorities also said they would not consider any KHL players for national team duty.
Hockey is just one of the sports where Russia has faced sanctions from various federations because of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) banned all Russian and Belarusian teams from its tournaments at every level in a decision taken at the end of February. That sanction was upheld in July.
Russia was also stripped of the 2023 World Junior Championship due to be held in December and January, and the 2023 Men’s World Championship which was set for St. Petersburg next May. Canada will now host the former tournament, while the latter has been shifted to joint hosts Finland and Latvia.