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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

Ovechkin, Malkin lead Russia past Finland 5-2 for gold at Worlds

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The year 2014 wasn’t all for naught for Russia.

Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin each scored to help Russia defeat Pekka Rinne and Finland 5-2 in the gold medal game of the 2014 IIHF World Championships in Belarus.

Ovechkin’s goal 7:34 into the second period tied the game 2-2 and Malkin’s 5-on-3 power play goal put Russia ahead for good 8:02 later. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 shots to earn the win for Russia. Rinne stopped 34 for Finland.

Have a look at Malkin’s eventual game-winning goal here:

The gold medal is Russia’s fourth in the past seven years at Worlds. While they haven’t won gold at the Olympics since 1992 (then as the Commonwealth of Independent States), they’ve dominated the annual tournament of late. The Russian team

Next year’s tournament heads to Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

Here are the full highlight’s from Russia’s win.

Video: Alex Ovechkin injured at Worlds

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The Washington Capitals rough offseason may have just gotten a lot worse.

During the third period of Team Russia’s 3-0 win against Team Germany, Alex Ovechkin was upended on a hip check and put down on the ice. Ovechkin needed help from trainers getting off the ice and went straight to the locker room putting no weight on his right leg.

Slava Malamud of Sport-Express says things don’t look good at all at the moment as he was taken from the arena in an ambulance.

The peril of having star players participate in the World Championships means they can still get injured playing hockey, just ask Eric Staal last year when he was injured in a knee-on-knee hit by Alex Edler.

If Ovechkin is injured seriously, it’s a major blow to the Capitals as they’re in need of a new GM and coach as it is. Having to possibly deal without Ovechkin makes for a brutal turn of events.

Update (4:58 p.m. ET): According to Malamud, Ovechkin was taken to the hospital for a MRI to examine his lower-body. To cool down the possible hysteria, he clarified the person who said it was “pretty bad” was a team official and not a doctor.

The Capitals have also released a statement on the injury:

We are aware that Alex Ovechkin sustained an injury during today’s game versus Germany. Our medical staff is working with Ovechkin and Team Russia to gather additional information at this time.”

Update (5:58 p.m. ET): We might be able to take this down to DEFCON 4 in Washington — Ovechkin is back at his hotel and walking around.

To add to that, here’s more good news:

Finally, to put this to bed, here’s Ovechkin giving thumbs-up on Instagram.

Ovechkin to play for Russia at World Championships

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Things didn’t exactly go well for Alex Ovechkin during the season for the Washington Capitals or for Team Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, so now he’ll try to find another way to end the season on a winning note.

Yahoo Sports’ Dmitry Chesnokov reports Ovechkin will join the Russian team on April 20 for the 2014 World Championships in Belarus.

Russia will be looking to rebound from last year’s shocking 8-3 quarterfinal loss to the United States at Worlds. Ovechkin has been, if nothing else, a steady participant for his home country when it comes to Worlds. Of course, most of that ties into the lack of success the Capitals have had in the postseason as an early exit there frees him up to play in the IIHF tournament.

Ovechkin won’t be headed to Belarus alone as Caps teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov will also join him on the Russian team. Russia last won gold at Worlds in 2012 when they knocked off Slovakia. Russia has won gold at three of the past six tournaments so they’ve at least got that going for them.

Sundin says he was ‘almost disgusted’ by Russia’s performance in Olympics

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Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin won a gold medal with Team Sweden in 2006, so he knows a bit about what it takes to win on the international stage.

That’s why when Sundin sounded off to TSN Radio in Toronto about the performance of Russia, it’s worth at least paying attention to.

“I was almost disgusted by their performance when they played Finland,” said the 43-year-old who played 18 seasons in the NHL. “I look at the Finnish team and they’re missing key players. They don’t have any of their big stars and now [Rask] is hurt and that Russian team is stacked with great players and to come out and have that performance they had in the quarterfinals. It was an absolutely heartless performance.”

Sundin went on to question the Russians desire further saying if the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin couldn’t inspire them, he didn’t know what else could do it.

As Sundin mentions, Finland had a host of key players missing including Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula, and Aleksander Barkov. Russia’s key players like Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin had less-than stellar performances in the Olympics but for the most part their offense didn’t do enough to help them win on the whole.

Still, when retired players are coming out of the woodwork to pile on, it’s a sign things in Russia need to change if they’re going to win a medal in 2018.