KHL team quits over Ukraine invasion and IOC looks to pull events from Russia, Belarus

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In a big move, Finnish KHL team Jokerit has opted to quit the season over the current crisis in the Ukraine.

“My position on the end of the season was clear right on Thursday morning. However, in accordance with KHL policies, I had to have discussions with the league. That is why we are unfortunately only able to report this now,” chairman and former NHL great Jari Kurri said in a statement.

“The world is going through really difficult times right now,” he continued. “All our thoughts are with the people suffering from the situation. We hope that a peaceful solution to the situation can be found soon.”

KHL team quits; Jokerit suspends team play

Jokerit was set to begin the KHL playoffs on March 1. This action forces the league to have to reset the playoff bracket in the Western Conference.

“We’re very sorry to lose Jokerit, an excellent and vibrant team, with a recognizable style,” said Alexei Morozov, KHL president. “It’s very unfortunate that the Jokerit’s departure is due not to sporting reasons, but to political ones.”

via ESPN

According to a report from ESPN, the club was under immense pressure from fans and sponsors to make a statement, with several sponsors pulling support. Jokerit is one of five teams not based in Russia.

IOC calls for events to be pulled

Feb 20, 2022; Beijing, China; Team ROC players stand on. The ice after receiving their silver medals during the medals ceremony as part of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at National Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee is asking all international sports federations to cancel or move any events currently planned for Russia or Belarus.

In a statement issued Friday, the board said Russia violated the Olympic Truce with its early morning invasion of Ukraine on Thursday and that Belarus also was in violation by supporting the actions ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The IOC also is urging organizers of upcoming events not to display the flags or play the anthems of the two countries.

Already on Friday, the International Ski Federation canceled six upcoming World Cup events throughout Russia scheduled through March 20, and Formula 1 called off the Russian Grand Prix slated for Sept. 25. The UEFA moved the Champions League from St. Petersburg to Paris on Thursday.

The IOC executive board said in its statement issued Friday that it expressed “its deep concerns about the safety of the members of the Olympic Community in Ukraine and stands in full solidarity.”

The IOC added that a special task force stands ready to work with the Olympic community in Ukraine to “coordinate humanitarian assistance where possible.”

The Olympic Truce began seven days before the start of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb. 4 and is set to end seven days after the closing of the Paralympic Winter Games on March 13.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report