Czechia Implements Restrictive NHL Policy



This season, the NHL will play a series of games overseas. Four European cities will have the opportunity to witness an NHL game on their home ice.[1] One city, however, has used the “Global Series” to take a stand.

The Czech Republic announced that it will not allow Russian players to participate in the Global Series game between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks.[2] This decision is related to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. [3] For Nashville, this would include its tone-setting forward Yakov Trenin, as well as two of its top prospects, forward Egor Afanasyev and goaltender Yaroslav Askarov. For San Jose, role player Evgeny Svechnikov and potential first-line winger Alex Barbanov would be excluded.


Opponents of the Czech Republic’s actions may argue that it unfairly punishes NHL players with no responsibility for their government’s actions. The move could deny these players a once-in-a-lifetime experience due to things outside of their control. In fact, Russian NHL players, such as Askarov [4] and Kirill Kaprizov [5], have had recent battles with the Russian government. Those who support the move, however, may see it as an important step to help end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.


Neither the NHL nor the teams have made official statements regarding their approval/denial of the decision, but they are left with an interesting policy decision. If they publicly support the decision, it would be much to the chagrin of its players (and likely their teammates). However, outright reprimand of the decision could cause serious backlash from the NHL’s fan base, particularly in Europe. Perhaps the NHL takes a middle-of-the-road approach that NHL agents have seemed to endorse.


Whatever the NHL, Predators, and Sharks decide to do, their words will set the tone in their relationships with Russian athletes for the remainder of the Ukrainian conflict and beyond.


Britton Yoder is a 2L at Penn State – Dickinson Law, where he serves as president of the Sports & Entertainment Law Society.


Sources:

[1] The cities include Bern, Switzerland; Tampere, Finland; Berlin, Germany; and Prague, Czech Republic. [2] Washington Post, Czech Government Tells NHL Teams that Russian Players are Unwelcome (22 September 2022). [3] Global companies and financial institutions have pulled their business out of Russia and its constituent countries. The International Olympic Committee has also banned Russian athletes, while the UEFA has excluded the Russian national team from competition. [4] At one point, Askarov’s outlook with the Nashville Predators was uncertain due to SKA Moscow’s supposed desire to prevent Askarov from going to the United States. [5] Star Tribune, Wild GM Bill Guerin: ‘I was really nervous’ about getting Kirill Kaprizov back from Russia (26 August 2022).