NHL legend Sergei Fedorov sparks a major controversy.
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NHL legend Sergei Fedorov sparks a major controversy.

Sergei Fedorov is at the center of a major controversy that could have a huge impact on the NHL.

Jonathan Larivee

A major controversy has just hit the hockey world, and at its center sits one of the most well respected hockey players of all time.

On Friday, Szymon Szemberg of the Alliance of European Hockey Clubs reported that National Hockey League legend Sergei Fedorov was deliberately defying a ruling from the International Ice Hockey Federation regarding the eligibility of goaltender Ivan Fedotov.

Fedotov, a former 7th round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers, has himself been at the center of controversy over the course of the last year as the Kontinental Hockey League and the NHL have battled over his rights. Recently, the IIHF ruled that Fedotov had a valid contract with the NHL and as a result barred him from playing in the KHL, a ruling that Fedorov has now brazenly ignored.

According to Szemberg, this is the first time that any IIHF affiliated federation has defied a sanction imposed by hockey's governing body.

THe IIHF's ruling was designed to force the KHL to release Fedotov, effectively allowing him to come to North America and play for the Flyers, but that now seems very unlikely given the events that have just tanspired.

KHL President Alexei Morozov released a statement that strongly suggested the decision whether or not to play Fedotov came directly from the coaching staff of his team, CSKA Moscow. CSKA Moscow's coaching staff is of course led by Fedorov himself.

"Fedotov is in the application for this match, whether he will play further is the decision of the coaching staff," said Morozov in an official statement released by the KHL.

Although Fedotov should be playing for the Philadelphia Flyers this season, Fedorov was defiant following his decision to put Fedotov in for a game, going so far as to comment on the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“Reading certain things over the past month, I can say with confidence, in my opinion, everyone needs to wake up a long time ago,” said Fedorov as per Bob Duff. “A special military operation is underway, the world has changed. Therefore, here everyone needs to wake up and understand what realities we live in, and who rules in our country – we or some laws from the other side?”

According to Szemberg, both the KHL and Fedorov himself have good reason to feel comfortable in their defiance. Szemberg reports that, not only are they supported by powerful allies of Russian president Vladimir Putin, but they also have very little to lose given the IIHF's recent rulings against them.

This is of course having a negative impact on the NHL itself and one has to wonder if more Russian players could be forced to play in Russia in the future, despite them having legally binding contracts with the NHL.

Szemberg was clear to stress that Fedotov, who was recently drafted into the Russian military, should not be blamed for this incident. According to Szemberg, Fedotov doesn't really have a choice in the matter as refusing to play could see him forced to take part in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story.