Ovechkin: from NHL hero to Putin's pariah after Russia invades Ukraine
The Capitals star has been criticised over his support for Putin before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Dominik Hasek calling him "chicken shit."
The war between Ukraine and Russia has had a knock-on effect on Russian athletes, and particularly those who have historically had a long relationship with Vladimir Putin. One such case is that of NHL star Alex Ovechkin, who was one of the heroes of the Washington Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup triumph but who has now become a villain among NHL fans and some of his colleagues over his support for the Russian leader.
Ovechkin publicly showed his support for Putin in 2017, setting up a website to that effect, which has led to an uncomfortable situation for the record-setting goal-scorer. "Putin is my president, but I am not a politician. I am a sportsman and I am Russian, and I can't change that. I hope all this will end soon," he said at a recent press conference.
Ovechkin in the eye of US media storm
However, Ovechkin’s stance has not endeared him to the US media, NHL fans and players. "To say that he feels helpless is an attempt to minimize importance. He is one of the most beloved Russian athletes in the world and the fans love him. He could have done something different, but he chose not to. He's an ass-kisser," SB Nation wrote. Meanwhile, the Montreal Gazette urged Ovechkin to “use his considerable power to knock the tyrant off his pedestal, otherwise he will be more famous for his actions than his goals.”
Czech star Dominik Hasek, who played for the Buffalo Sabres, went further still: “Not only is he a chickenshit, he’s a liar as well. Every adult in Europe knows Putin is a mad killer and that Russia is waging an offensive war against a free country and its people. The NHL should suspend his contract immediately.”