New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin takes leave of absence after former coach’s allegations

Jan 19, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) honors the NHLs first Black player Willie O’Ree with a commemorative helmet sticker prior to a game against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin has taken a leave of absence with the New York Rangers full support. Larry Brooks of the NY Post broke the story earlier today citing a “hit piece” from his former KHL coach Andrei Nazarov.

The allegation claims the incident took place in 2011 in Riga. It also claims 40,000 Euros were paid to make the case go away. Panarin’s former coach also brought up Panarin’s critical social media posts for stirring political unrest in Russia.

Rangers release statement as Panarin denies claims

“Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story,” a team statement reads. “This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations.”

Panarin a longtime critic of President Putin

Panarin has been a critic of Vladimir Putin and even expressed support for one of his political opponents recently. The “intimidation tactic” and “recent political events” likely refers to that Instagram post by the Rangers leading scorer.

nhl scores rangers
Panarin (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Of course, Panarin sent shockwaves across the Russian sports landscape back in 2019. In an interview some called “unprecedented” he went on record to call out Russia’s president.

“I think he no longer understands what’s right and what’s wrong. Psychologically, it’s not easy for him soberly judge the situation…I am not saying this because I see any kind of profit for myself in this. I want the people to live better, for teachers and doctors to have better salaries. I don’t want some ballerinas (Panarin is referring to the ultra-patriotic former dancer Anastasia Volochkova) to say, ‘If you don’t like it here, you can leave!’ This is raving madness! Everyone has left already, all the brains are gone. This shouldn’t be happening.”

Panarin via Sportsnet

His criticisms of Putin have not been met well from other Russian hockey players in the past. Alexandar Ovechkin being the most prominent to disagree with Panarin.

Panarin’s former coach, Nazarov has also been characterized as a Putin supporter. This story is still fluid and further updates are expected.