US hockey players urged to leave Russia amid embassy warning
Russia-based hockey players from the United States are among those to have been advised to leave the country amid the partial military mobilization announced by Moscow.
Citing the development, the US Embassy warned that Russian authorities may refuse to acknowledge persons with dual Russian-US citizenship, and may deny them access to US consular assistance.
A security alert also stated that dual citizens could be prevented from leaving the country and may be conscripted for military service.
The press service of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) noted the recommendation of the US Embassy, replying to Match TV: “The information published by the US Embassy concerns people who have citizenship of the Russian Federation.
“Fourteen hockey players playing in the KHL do not have such citizenship, another one – Shane Prince – has citizenship of the USA and Belarus.
“As for the departure of players abroad due to the risk of being mobilized, this is not a force majeure in labor relations,” it added.
Meanwhile, the 48 Canadian players representing KHL teams is the largest from any country outside of Russia, with 44 of those playing for teams in Russia or Belarus and a further four in Kazakhstan.
Canada has issued prior advisory notices to players in which it recommended leaving Russia and Belarus following the onset of the military campaign in Ukraine in February.
A representative of Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told the media that any players who stay in Russia or Belarus will be liable to explain their decision to the Canadian public.
Branding the Russian military operation in Ukraine as “a war on freedom, on democracy and on the rights of Ukrainians,” Joly's press secretary Adrien Blanchard said that Canadians “who decide to play and associate with Russia and Belarus should explain their decisions to the public.”
However, Ritchie Winter, an agent who represents the interests of three KHL players, says that professional athletes should be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their careers.
“We live in a world where individuals are allowed to make those decisions. It’s just an individual decision related to an employment opportunity,” Winter said.
“Has every player that’s gone, push, tugged and pulled and wrestled with the decision? Yeah, absolutely.
“At the end of the day, they’re husbands and fathers who have responsibilities to their families. If you’re a young family with limited resources because you played mostly in the minors, there’s a desire to take care of your family.
“Sometimes that leads people to the oilfields in Kazakhstan and sometimes it leads them to the KHL.”