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There have been some mostly muted reports this season concerning Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin and his connection to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. While Ovechkin has declined to make any sort of official statement on Russia's war in Ukraine, he has been an outspoken supporter of Putin in the past and, in fact, still has a photo of himself alongside Putin as his social media profile picture.
Some fans and analysts have called for Ovechkin to be suspended or removed from the NHL until he either makes a statement admonishing Russia's war or until he denounces his support for Putin. To date though, those calls have mostly gone unanswered because... well... because the United States and Canada are both free countries where individuals are allowed to hold and express disagreeable opinions. Still, a small minority of fans continue to rally against Ovechkin, which has prompted longtime NHL broadcaster Don Cherry to weigh in on the topic.
“He’s a hockey player,” said Cherry in his most recent column for the Toronto Sun. “He has nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. None of this is his fault. He’s not involved in it.”
“It’s the same crowd that went after me,” Cherry said about the fans trying to 'cancel' Ovechkin. “They don’t care about hockey, and it’s not about hockey. Alex is a great player and great person, and he deserves better than to be treated like this.”
Cherry maintains that someone's politics should be removed from what they bring to the sport. In other words, Grapes doesn't give a damn about Ovechkin's personal beliefs, he just cares whether or not he gives things an honest effort.
“It’s all about how he is playing and this guy, as he goes for Wayne (Gretzky’s) goal scoring record of 894, is playing hard.”
There's no denying that, that's for sure.
Personally, I don't particularly care or mind what Ovechkin's political beliefs are. I know what my stance is on the war in Russia and I don't think any sort of statement either way from a pro hockey player is going to change that. However, we live in a world that is increasingly concerned with the opinions of others, so I'm not surprised that he's under fire these days. I only hope that one day people realize the error in looking to celebrities and athletes as some sort of moral compass... find out where you stand on a subject on your own, not because some hockey player told you to feel one way or another.