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IIHF backs Russia’s participation in Pyeongchang Olympics

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The International Ice Hockey Federation doesn’t want to see hockey suffer at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

With the International Olympic Committee set to rule on whether Russia can compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games next week, the IIHF threw its support behind Russia’s “clean” athletes on Tuesday.

The IIHF released a statement on the matter on Tuesday, stating that they “oppose” the use of collective punishment in what they called a “unanimous opinion.”

The IOC will rule on the matter on Dec. 5.

The statement, which can be read in full below, said that “punitive measures” the IOC is seeking against Russia would put the “health of ice hockey at risk.”

The IIHF Council has reached a unanimous opinion that all clean athletes, including those from Russia, must be permitted to represent their country in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.

We oppose the use of collective punishment in the case of Russian athletes. Although we recognize the need to confront doping in sport, Olympic participation should not be used to sanction the many for the actions of the few. In addition, the extent to which the IOC is seeking punitive measures in the case of Russia is putting the health of ice hockey at risk.

Russia’s role in the growth and development of ice hockey cannot be understated. This country forms a pillar on which our sport’s legacy rests upon.

To preserve the integrity of the Olympic ice hockey tournaments, the IIHF in full cooperation with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the Kontinental Hockey League initiated a highly structured testing program for the KHL, MHL, and WHL, which went into operation in December 2016 and up to the present has tested nearly 400 Russian players.

To this effect, the IIHF Council reiterates its position that clean athletes from all qualified Federations should be permitted to go to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and represent their countries.

“We wanted to outline our position clearly to the IOC, that we are against a collective punishment approach that would unfairly punish many Russian athletes that had nothing to do with doping,” said IIHF President René Fasel in a release.

The potential punishment that could be levied against Russia stems from the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

The World Anti-Doping Agency claims Russia’s athletes were involved in a state-backed doping program to help boost their medal count at their chances of success at their home Games.

Last week, Hockey Canada, along with the hockey federations in Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic sent a letter to the Kontinental Hockey League, encouraging the league not to withhold its players from the games in protest for the potential sanctions of Russia’s Pyeongchang participation.

The move by the KHL would have a widespread effect on the composition of hockey teams heading to the Games. The CBC reported last week that “sixteen members of Canada’s 25-man-roster at the recent Karjala Cup in Finland play in the KHL, including goalie Ben Scrivens and forwards Wojtek Wolski and Teddy Purcell.”

Fasel said the KHL is obliged to release any players of any nationality.

NHL players will not be permitted to play in the Olympics, which run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Russian ice hockey player has 2-year doping ban cut

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ZURICH (AP) The International Ice Hockey Federation has slashed a doping ban given to Russian forward Danis Zaripov from two years to six months.

He’s eligible to play again from Thursday.

Zaripov, a Russian Olympian in 2010, was suspended in July for taking the banned substance pseudoephedrine.

However, the IIHF says it has reached a settlement with Zaripov, who filed an appeal. The IIHF agreed to cut the suspension. Since it’s dated from May 23, that means Zaripov will be eligible again on Thursday.

The IIHF says its decision is “based on extensive documentary and expert evidence that was unavailable” this year.

Zaripov has previously told Russian media he was in contact with the St. Louis Blues about a move to the NHL, where his ban isn’t valid.

KHL’s Boris Sadecky fools goaltender with sweet between-the-legs move (Video)

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Boris Sadecky added to the string of recent between-the-legs goals on Wednesday with a stunning effort for HC Slovan of the KHL.

During a 3-2 loss to Lokomotiv, the 20-year-old Sadecky evened the score after dancing around defender Pavel Koledov and then fooling goaltender Alexander Sudnitsin.

That move has been a popular one of late. Josh Bailey of the New York Islanders pulled it off on Saturday versus the San Jose Sharks, while Nottingham Panthers winger Robert Farmer was successful in his attempt earlier this month.

What a helpless feeling for those poor goaltenders.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Iron Mikhail? Keenan may coach Russia in international competition

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Many hockey fans might not realize this, but Mike Keenan is still very much an active professional coach. He’s just doing so in Russia.

If there was any question about his commitment to his second hockey home, consider this: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Keenan is in the process of gaining Russian citizenship, and may just help coach the country at the international level:

The native of Whitby, Ont., is in the process of finalizing his Russian citizenship, as is his long-time assistant, Mike Pelino. Russian officials have been encouraging Keenan do this for some time to show fans he is committed to the team, the KHL and the country. Keenan, who says he has learned enough of the Russian language to get by, is in the final year of his contract but doesn’t sound like he’s in any rush to get out. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Once his Russian citizenship has been approved, there is a good chance the highly decorated coach will return to international competition. If all goes as planned, Keenan could be on the bench, or at least a member of Team Russia’s staff, at future championships, including the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in 2016.

Neat stuff, right?

It’s difficult not to take “learning enough of the Russian language to get by” as “locking down a few phrases he can scream at KHL players,” but credit him for following his passion at 65.

Keenan (pictured on the left) is currently in a very successful run with KHL team Magnitogorsk.

Speaking of familiar faces behind KHL benches, it sounds like Sergei Zubov’s getting a big opportunity with SKA St. Petersburg:

Report: Sergei Kostitsyn nearing an NHL deal

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According to Igor Eronko, Sergei Kostitsyn is close to signing an NHL contract.

It is currently unknown which team Kostitsyn is negotiating with.

The 28-year-old spent the 2014-15 season with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL, scoring seven goals and 27 points in 49 games.

Originally a seventh-round selection (200th overall) of the Montreal Canadiens, Kostitsyn last played in the NHL during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, scoring three goals and 12 assists with the Nashville Predators.

Kostitsyn was placed on unconditional waivers by the Preds in July 2013 and signed a reported three-year deal with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.

The 6-foot, 207-pound forward has appeared in 353 NHL games with the Canadiens and Predators scoring 67 goals and 176 points.