Report: NHL Russian players facing ‘disturbing’ harassment and threats

Report: Russian players facing ‘disturbing’ harassment and threats
May 6, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98), right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) and teammates celebrate as they beat the Boston Bruins after game five of the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 3-1 to advance to the eastern conference finals. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

An NHL player agent who represents more than 75 percent of the league’s Russian and Belarusian players said his clients are facing “disturbing levels” of harassment over their home country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dan Milstein, himself Ukrainian by birth, made the comments during an interview with ESPN on Tuesday.

“The discrimination and racism these Russian and Belarusian players are facing right now is remarkable,” Milstein told the network. “My own childhood home is being bombed as I speak to my friends back home. … But people are picking on the wrong crowd. I can speak on behalf of my clients: They want world peace like everybody else. They’re not being treated like that.”

NHL Russian players facing harassment

NHL teams across the league were being asked to beef up security for their Russian players by Milstein on Monday.

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, he spoke with the agent about the safety of Russian-born players. Milstein said that some of his clients had received “real threats” both in-person and via social media.

TFP’s David Pagnotta followed up the report stating that several teams have already upped their security after players were sent death threats.

Milstein said today that he is “very grateful” that the league has followed up on ensuring the safety of Russian and Belarusian players through arrangements of extra security.

Milstein reps many Russian players

nhl russian players
Jan 6, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) warms up prior to a game against the Calgary Flames at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Milstein represents clients such as Nikita Zadorov, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ilya Sorkin. The Moscow-born Zadorov, for one, spoke out against the invasion on social media.

Milstein, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1991 and is now a U.S. citizen, further alleged that draft-eligible Russian players are being discriminated against.

“Some hockey executives have already expressed concern in the upcoming draft whether those players will ever be able to come out (of Russia) and play, and some of them are concerned about the public opinion when certain players are drafted,” Milstein told ESPN. “I try to understand the teams, and of course public opinion matters, but this is pure discrimination. And these are young men’s lives we’re talking about. Innocent young men who are now being punished.”

NHL condemns Russia

The NHL condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said Monday it was suspending its business partnerships in Russia and pausing its Russian language social and digital media in response.

Russia, led by president Vladimir Putin, began an invasion of Ukraine last week. It has drawn the nation global condemnation and sanctions, including in the world of sports.

The NHL also announced it would no longer seek to hold “any future competitions” in Russia. The league sometimes holds regular-season or exhibition games in Europe, last holding an exhibition in Russia in 2010.

“The National Hockey League condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible,” the league’s statement said. “Effective immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are pausing our Russian language social and digital media sites. In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL.

“We also remain concerned about the well-being of the players from Russia, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL Clubs, and not on behalf of Russia. We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position.”

Gretzky and Hasek demanded action

alex ovechkin
Nov 8, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) shoots the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Russian NHL players themselves have come under fire amid the invasion, with goaltending great Dominik Hasek of the Czech Republic recently arguing that the NHL should suspend the contracts of all Russian players.

Wayne Gretzky relayed on a TNT broadcast phone calls with friends in the Ukraine driving 14 hours to get their kids to safety and then coming back to defend their respective cities. He also spoke about Washington Capitals captain and Vladimir Putin supporter, Alex Ovechkin’s comments calling for “no more war.”

“You know Alex isn’t driving this bus, it’s [Putin],” Gretzky said regarding the criticism Ovechkin has received for his support of Putin.

“It’s not good,” Gretzky said. “This is a senseless war.”

Gretzky, 61, who holds the All-Time record for Goals (894), Assists (1963), and Points (2857) called on the IIHF and Canada to hold Russia accountable.

“I think international hockey should say, ‘we’re not going to let them play in the World Junior hockey tournament’,” Gretzky demanded. “I think as Canadians, we’ve got to take that stance since the games are taking place in Edmonton.”

Some Russian NHL players have been critical of Putin, such as New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin. Others are avid Putin supporters, including Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. On Friday, Ovechkin, whose family still lives in Russia, said he was against the war.

According to QuantHockey, there are 55 Russian players who have appeared an NHL game this season.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report