Gary Bettman – NHL will ‘respect process’ when it comes to players in Russia
MONTREAL – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said players who are currently in Russia must make “the best possible decisions for themselves and their families” when it comes to returning to North America for the next season.
“It’s probably not a good idea for us or the clubs to get involved in the politics of what’s going on in Russia,” Bettman said at the NHL Draft on Thursday. “I don’t want to say anything that could be misinterpreted or cause a sensitive situation to ignite. Russian players who still reside in Russia should ensure that they make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families. “
There are growing concerns about the status of some Russian NHL players next season. Last week, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ivan Fedotov was arrested by law enforcement in Russia on suspicion of escaping military service. Fedotov’s agent told The Associated Press that Fedotov was moved to a remote military base in northern Russia.
This week, a Russian media report claimed Minnesota Wild star Kirill Kaprizov was wanted by police in a case involving fraudulent military ID cards. The Wild said Kaprizov is currently in Russia.
“All I’m trying to do is get information and not take the leap or hit the panic button on anything,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said.
Bettman said the NHL also collects information about these situations. “We probably don’t have the full story of what’s going on in terms of each player’s relationship in Russia versus the government. We’re going to have to respect the process as to what’s going on,” he said. . said.
Bettman denied that the NHL in any way discouraged teams from signing Russian players in the 2022 NHL Draft.
“No. I don’t think it would be appropriate. I saw there was a report that we advised clubs not to sign Russians. This is not true. Clubs will sign anyone eligible for the a particular country can be impacted by whether you can play them,” he said.
The relationship between the NHL and Russia has been strained since the invasion of Ukraine. The NHL has severed financial ties with Russian media companies and a Russian-based sports betting site. There is also no current transfer deal with the Kontinental Hockey League. The league’s relationship with Russia could influence its planning for the next World Cup of Hockey, which is tentatively scheduled for February 2024.
“I don’t know. The World Cup is still in its infancy. There’s so much work to do,” Bettman said.
Bettman also said the NHL is working with the NHL Players’ Association on its own investigation into the Hockey Canada sexual assault case. Hockey Canada quietly settled a lawsuit in May after a woman said she was assaulted by members of the 2018 gold medal-winning world junior hockey team at a reception for the organization. The NHL only recently learned of the allegations.
The league is conducting its own investigation because some of the players on this world junior team are now in the NHL. Bettman said the NHL is working with the players’ union to ensure there is full cooperation. He wouldn’t say if there could be additional discipline for NHL players if they don’t cooperate with the investigation.
“Let’s cross the bridge if we have to,” he said.
An independent investigation ended in September 2020, but outgoing Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney told Canadian lawmakers the report was incomplete and should not be released. Bettman said the NHL is in the process of acquiring all information from Hockey Canada’s investigation.
“We’re going to investigate as thoroughly as we can to see if we can learn more than Hockey Canada has been able to,” he said.
NHL chief security officer Jared Maples will lead the league’s investigation, but Bettman said the NHL is open to involvement from outside companies if necessary. Bettman said whether the information is made public depends on the safeguards the NHL has to put in place to get the information, but he hopes to make everything public.
Ultimately, he said the NHL wanted to get the full picture of what happened. “Of course it is. It’s unacceptable,” he said.