NHL confirms Russian Stanley Cup ban
Russian hockey stars will not be allowed to parade the Stanley Cup in their homeland this summer in a move which breaks with the usual tradition, the NHL has confirmed.
Typically, members of the championship-winning organization are allowed to take the famous trophy for a day to celebrate in their respective home countries as it embarks on a tour around the world.
This season, at least one Russia star is guaranteed to get his hands on the cup as two-time defending champion the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Colorado Avalanche in the final.
Tampa boasts Russian trio Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Mikhail Sergachev on its roster, while compatriot Valeri Nichushkin plays for Colorado.
But ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said players had been informed that the trophy would not be permitted to travel to Russia or Belarus due to the conflict in Ukraine.
“With respect to this summer, the cup isn’t going to Russia or Belarus,” Daly told the media.
“To that extent, we may owe a cup trip in the future. That can happen like we did with the pandemic, but it’s not happening this summer.”
The comments from Daly confirmed reports in the Russian media that the country would not get a first-hand glimpse of the trophy this summer.
Despite that decision, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league had not told clubs to avoid bringing in young Russian or Belarussian stars in the upcoming NHL drafts.
“They’re going to be totally available for selection, just like they are every year,” said the official.
Daly, however, suggested that players from the two countries could see their stock “slip” because of the current situation.
“Would it surprise me if somebody slipped based on where they were projected to go based on the inability to access them? Potentially,” said the deputy commissioner.
When Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final got underway in Denver on Wednesday night, Russian stars were integral to the action at a raucous Ball Arena as the Avs claimed a 4-3 overtime victory.
The hosts surged into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Gabriel Landeskog and Russia’s Nichushkin, before Nick Paul pulled one back for the Bolts.
Colorado center Artturi Lehkonen extended the lead again during a 5-on-3 power play before the first period was over.
Tampa rallied in the second period thanks to a goal from lineman Ondrej Palat, who was brilliantly assisted by Kucherov. Russian defenseman Sergachev then slammed in a third less than a minute later to level the score.
After a goalless third period, Nichushkin came to the fore again in overtime as he assisted Andre Burakovsky for the winning goal less than 90 seconds into the extra frame as the Avalanche moved ahead in the series.
It was disappointing for Lightning’s Russian trio of Kucherov, Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev – all of whom were part of the team’s back-to-back titles in the past two seasons.
Goaltender Vasilevskiy – seen by many as vying with countryman Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers as the best in the world – endured a particularly tough night but still made 34 saves.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series takes place in Denver on Saturday night before the teams head to Florida for successive games.