New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the team after a Russian tabloid published allegations by the former coach that he attacked a woman in Latvia almost a decade ago, which he denies.
Andrei Nazarov, the former NHL coach who coached Panarin in the Continental Hockey League, told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on Saturday that Panarin had attacked an 18-year-old Latvian woman from a hotel in the Latvian capital Riga after the game. in one. In December 2011.
Nazarov told the tabloid that Panarin knocked the woman to the floor with “several strong blows.” Nazarov added that he later heard that the Latvian authorities had investigated the incident, but that no action had been taken after the “authoritative” locals negotiated with the police not to pursue the case, ostensibly after changing the money.
Nazarov said he was motivated to speak out about the alleged incident because he did not agree with Panarin’s repeated criticism of the Russian government.
“Artemi categorically and unequivocally denies all allegations in this fabricated story,” Rangers said in a statement on Monday. “This is an obvious intimidation tactic used against him to speak out against the recent political events. Artem is obviously shocked, worried, he will take some time from the team. “Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to find out the source of these baseless allegations.”
Panarin, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, last month voiced his support for opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested last month after returning to Moscow and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for violating deadlines. his probationary period.
The 29-year-old Panarin has played in the NHL since 2015 and was a finalist for the MVP award last season. He won the Calder Trophy as Newcomer of the Year in 2016 to Chicago, where he played two seasons, traveled to Columbus “twice” and then signed a $ 81.5 million deal with a seven-year contract with New York in 2019.
He leads the Rangers with 5 points, 18 points and 13 assists. They play Philadelphia the next day on Wednesday.
Panarin played for Nazarov with Vityaz Chekhov in 2010-2012.
AP sports writer James Ames Ellingworth contributed.
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