It was 41 years ago this week when the US team defeated the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics “Ice Miracle” at Lake Placid, which changed hockey forever in this country.
But that loss preceded one of the greatest sporting declines of all time – seismic changes in hockey in Russia and other Soviet satellite countries. A decade that began with their Olympic defeat against a reckless team of American team will end with the fact that the first Russian football players will go to the NHL.
Over the next three decades, the Russians became more popular in the NHL than any of the other North American sports leagues, which included some of its best players. You had the “Russian Five”. Sergei Federov, Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Slava Koslov and Vladimir Konstantinov, who in the 1990s dominated the Stanley Cup-winning Detroit Reds. Nikita Kucherov with Tampa Bay Lightning last season in Washington, DC.
The Hall of Fame of Russia is becoming as common as the top cup winners and goal-scoring champions like Ovechkin.
And as local sports fans unfamiliar with the nuances of the NHL may soon discover that this unique Russian element on the ice can sometimes refer to some unusual event far away.
This week was an example of that. New York Rangers star striker Artemi Panarin is on holiday when his former coach is accused of beating a 10-year-old 18-year-old woman in a Latvian bar. forward. Those details alone would be rather strange and frightening.
But adding to the nature of the story without a wall is that his team fully supports Panarin in the society. Assuming that he is a victim of a revenge plot carried out by supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Artemi categorically and unequivocally denies all allegations in this fabricated story,” Rangers said in a statement on Monday. “This is obviously a tactic of intimidation used to expose the recent political events against him … Rangers fully support Artemi և will work with him to find out the source of these baseless allegations.”
Now I usually have skeptics about professional athletes when there is a story of violence against women. We have seen and heard that violent athletes claim that such accusations are exaggerated by the media, or fabrications, just because detailed police reports, eyewitness accounts, and even videos contradict them.
I came across a lot of greasy sports ads, former police officers, who worked as “fixers” on the team և league salaries, dedicated to the complaints of real female victims. So I’m not going to declare Panarin innocent yet.
That said, this story does not have the first necessity to declare Panarin a guilty person. Mostly a victim, a police report, a trusted accuser.
What we do know is that Panarin is the most prominent athlete in any sport when it comes to criticizing Putin. Excerpts from his interview, social media posts tore Putin apart, even insulted Russian players supporting his Russian counterparts, particularly Capitals star Ovechkin.
But Panarin rose to prominence last month when he voiced his support for Instagram over Putin’s political opponent, Alexei Navalny, whose recent imprisonment in Russia sparked widespread protests by Russian security forces.
Anti-corruption crusader Navalny almost died last August after being poisoned by a nerve agent he calls a government assassination attempt. He was treated in Berlin, where he continued to condemn Putin before returning to Russia last month and being arrested immediately.
World governments have condemned the move by Russia, including the Biden administration. Given the bigger stakes for Russia, including the pending foreign sanctions, it is not surprising that Panarin’s support for Navalny could draw more attention to the Kremlin than past views on Russia’s preferred elites – systemic corruption.
Adding to the intrigue, the source of the accusations of attacking Panarin is his former “Continental” hockey coach Andrei Nazarov, who previously plays in the NHL. Nazarov claims that Panarin beat his wife while having parties at a hotel bar in Riga, Latvia, in 2011. After the loss of the road on December 11, he paid 40,000 euros to the local police to cover it.
The obvious question is why Nazarov is still waiting to be charged. Some possible answers. He is a well-known supporter of Putin, who had previously blown up Panarin on Twitter, calling for the imprisonment of Russian athletes who criticized his country’s leader.
In any case, Nazarov has not yet offered a reasonable explanation for the delay. Panarin seemed to focus more on anti-Putin social media posts.
Like I said, you never know.
But it’s not like it happened in Ohio, և the NHL can easily send a security team. Latvia is not in the center of Moscow, but the former Soviet republic is a remote place; it is not the easiest to gather muscles in local police stations, demanding answers.
Many previous stories of NHL players coming from Russia have focused on organized crime and extortion, especially when the country became a major crime and instability shortly after the fall of communism there in 1991.
But the fact remains that Russia is a world power that is increasingly at odds with the United States, so as unusual as this Panarin story is, we should probably not be surprised that it plays such a game.
The closest I can think of is the Venezuelan experience in the Baseball League, given the regime’s blatantly anti-American rhetoric in recent decades, internal instability, especially from Russia, the looting and kidnapping of its players and their families.
But Venezuela is not a big power like Russia. The US government spends a lot of time every day trying to understand what Russia is doing, while it is doing the same to us.
And so the athlete here, speaking of the leader there, can come with bigger branches. The wisdom is that we may never know whether a teenage woman was abused by Panarin 10 years ago in Latvia.
If this more and more weird story turns out to be true, it would be really scary. But just as horrible,’s, especially as a prelude to things coming to Panarin – if it turns out that’s not true.