One of the major stories on the ice during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing was the play of 25-year-old goaltender, Ivan Fedotov.
Fedotov, standing a gargantuan 6’7”, helped lead the Russian squad – officially the Russian Olympic Committee team due to Russia’s doping violations ban – to a silver medal in the Games.
The lanky Finnish-born goaltender was a seventh-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2015 but had been playing in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League, Russia’s professional hockey association) since 2014. He helped lead CSKA Moscow to a 2022 Gagarin Cup victory as champions of the KHL.
Because his KHL contract had expired, he was seemingly free to join the Flyers, who had retained his rights since the 2015 Draft. Philadelphia expected him to compete for a roster spot this fall after signing him to a one-year, entry-level contract in May.
However, his agent J.P. Barry told The Associated Press that Fedotov was “reportedly picked up by law enforcement in Russia last week ahead of a planned move to the U.S. and is now at a remote military base in Northern Russia.”
“We have a draft in line with the law, so any emotional commentaries would be utterly inappropriate,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday when asked about Fedotov’s case. “There are certain reasons for deferments and various ways of undergoing military service for athletes.”
It’s unclear how Fedotov was evading military service, and it’s worth noting that he was born in Lappeenranta, Finland. According to the AP, “Russia was aiming to conscript more than 130,000 men for a year of military service this spring. The law allows for 21-month alternative civil service in facilities like hospitals for those who object to military service, but requests can often be ignored. In theory, Russian men can be conscripted between the ages of 18 and 27, though some never serve at all.”
The situation brings to mind the case of Brittney Griner, the American-born WNBA star who is still being detained by Russia, as we have reported here at Outkick. It also reminds us about the delicate relationship between Russian athletes and the United States.
Earlier this year, NHL superstar Alexander Ovechkin asked for an end to the war in Ukraine despite previously pledging his allegiance to President Putin. He’s not the only NHLer who has run into issues with the Russian government, either. New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin took a leave of absence from the team in 2021 to fight an alleged assault case from 2011.
Panarin claimed the assault charge was fabricated and being used as a tactic because of his outspoken critiques against the Russian government. The Russians are in a war, and it seems they are using everything at their disposal, including athletes, to try to gain advantage.