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LILLEY: Ovechkin shouldn’t be welcomed into Canada

His athletic ability is amazing, but his support for a genocidal dictator is sickening

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Unfortunately, barring a last-minute scratch from coach Peter Laviolette, Alexander Ovechkin will be out on the ice against the Leafs in Toronto on Sunday night.

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We should all want to celebrate great athletes, which Ovechkin definitely is, but he’s also an ardent supporter of a murderous, genocidal monster known as Vladimir Putin.

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So I can’t cheer Ovechkin and wish the Trudeau government had done the right thing and denied him an entry visa.

The Ukrainian-Canadian Congress had demanded this from the federal government, calling for an online petition to simply refuse Ovechkin entry. It was announced on Thursday that Canada would send tanks to Ukraine, and on Sunday Putin’s propaganda machine will go on ice when the Washington Capitals visit the Scotiabank Arena.

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Let’s hope he gets booed every time he touches the puck as he’s been on visits to Calgary and Edmonton.

Every time I’ve written about Ovechkin and his problematic support for Putin, I’ve been told that he’s just a hockey player and we shouldn’t mix politics and sport. Well, someone should have said that to Ovechkin before he organized the political operation known as the Putin Team in 2017 to help his friend get re-elected in Russia.

Someone should have told Ovechkin that sports and politics don’t mix before he released Russian propaganda messages in support of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, which saw Putin annex Crimea.

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In 2014, Ovechkin posted a photo to his Instagram feed, the same one that shows a photo of him smiling with his friend Putin, which read: “#SaveChildrenFromFascism.” He wore a T-shirt that read “No War” while holding a sign with the hashtag used as a pretext for Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine’s Donbass region.

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In the 1940s, would we have so easily accepted an athlete supporting Adolf Hitler, coming into our cities, our arenas, our stadiums? Would such an athlete have been celebrated like Ovechkin is now?

With every atrocity committed by his friend and president, Ovechkin should be asked if he still supports Putin. Every time a school or hospital is bombed by Russia, Ovechkin should be asked if these are actions he can support from his friend.

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin chases the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period at Scotiabank Arena on October 13, 2022.
Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin chases the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period at Scotiabank Arena on October 13, 2022. Photo by Dan Hamilton /USA TODAY sports

That’s not going to happen, it’s a lot easier to beat up someone like Ivan Provorov, another Russian who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers and has recently been roasted in all corners.

Provorov has not been denounced for his support of Putin, nor has he been told by veteran sports channels to return to Russia for supporting the war against Ukraine. The sin Provorov committed was choosing not to warm up with the Flyers before a game when the team wore gay pride jerseys to warm up — not the game, the warmup.

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Provorov explained that he respects everyone but cannot wear the jersey because of his religion. In the 11 months since the war began, he faced much harsher backlash and scrutiny than Ovechkin.

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Russia was not invited to the World Juniors in Halifax over Christmas. The tournament was originally supposed to be held in Russia, but was relocated after the invasion. Russian players have been banned from various sports and tournaments, but not from the NHL.

I’m not even asking for Ovechkin to be kicked out of the league, I just don’t think we should invite to our country athletes who support genocidal dictators that we are currently fighting. Let’s hope the fans give Ovechkin the cold and hostile reception he deserves.

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