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Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has come to the aid of his star forward Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin, who hails from Moscow, Russia, has faced criticism in the past week for his prior support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And given the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ovechkin’s support of Putin has been a major topic of conversation around the NHL.
Speaking with the media Wednesday, MacLellan said people should be sympathetic towards Ovechkin and other Russian players.
“It’s difficult for all the Russian players in the league,” MacLellan said, via NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot of pressure put on them to have a political opinion either way, and they’re trying to balance out how they live their lives and what their political opinions are and the repercussions that could happen back home.
“[Ovechkin’s] a good person, he’s an emotional person, and he takes things personally. I think he’s been put under an incredible amount of pressure. You know, for us, it’s about how do we support him.
“He’s been the face of our franchise and the face of hockey in this area, his family has grown up here, his kids are from here, and because of his status, he’s put in a hard situation to probably handle — a situation that I’m not sure that he’s fully thought out or that anybody has, really. It’s hard for him.”
Ovechkin addressed the media after Friday’s team practice and preached a message of unity.
“Please, no more war,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the war. Russia, Ukraine, different countries. I think we live in a world, like, we have to live in peace and a great world.”
Ovechkin has seen multiple sponsors distance themselves from him, including CCM and MassMutual. NHL Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek has been harsh on Ovechkin, calling him a “chicken shit.”
“The NHL must immediately suspend contracts for all Russian players,” Hasek wrote, via Twitter. “Every athlete represents not only himself and his club, but also his country and its values and actions. That is a fact. If the NHL does not do so, it has indirect co-responsibility for the dead in Ukraine.”
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