Russian Senator Calls for Ban on Young Hockey Stars Moving to North America

Posted: May 23, 2015 5:00 PM

A former NHL star turned Russian senator has had enough with the country's young talent fleeing Russia's Kontinental Hockey League for the NHL. Slava Fetisov, who moved to the United States in 1989 to play for the New Jersey Devils following a relaxation of Soviet law that prohibited any athlete from moving to North America, has called for a law that would prohibit any player under the age of 28 from playing in North America.

Russia has been known for playing hardball with its young players to keep them from moving to the NHL. It was rumored that current Washington Capitals player Evgeny Kuznetsov was promised a spot on the Russian national team in the Olympics if he stayed in the KHL--and when that failed to materialize he promptly jumped ship and moved to Washington.

Out of the 11 Russian-born players to have been drafted in the first round of the NHL draft since 2010, only four played exclusively in Russian leagues prior to the NHL. (The rest played in Canadian Major Junior leagues, such as the Ontario Hockey League.)

This is the latest attempt by Russia to mix hockey and politics. The Russian team came under fire when the majority of the players left the ice prior to the playing of the Canadian National Anthem during the medal ceremony of the IIHF World Championship. Prior to playing the United States in the tournament semifinals, a player on Russia's team was quoted saying that his team wanted to "teach those college kids a lesson." The Russian federation also accused the referees of being biased for the Americans in an earlier loss in the tournament.

From a purely selfish angle (Go Habs and go Caps), I hope this law doesn't go through. One would think that Russia would consider it to be a source of pride that her home-grown players absolutely dominate the best players from the rest of the world, rather than force them to stay home to prop up a struggling league.