Two weeks before the San Jose Sharks’ season-opening visit to Prague, GM Mike Grier made his stance clear on the possibility of the Czech Republic refusing to issue visas to visiting Russian NHL players.
“Either we all go, or no one goes,” Grier told reporters on the first day of training camp.
This is in response to recent reports that the Czech Republic, in solidarity with Ukraine, would not welcome Russian NHL players into their country for the upcoming Global Series regular season games between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators. For the Sharks, this could affect wingers Alexander Barabanov and Evgeny Svechnikov, among others.
To the condemnation of most in the international community, Russian president Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022 and is still waging war there.
Against this backdrop, San Jose and Nashville are set to kick off the NHL’s regular season on Oct. 7 and 8 at O2 Arena in Prague.
“We can confirm that the Czech Foreign Ministry has sent a letter to the NHL to point out that, at this moment, the Czech Republic or any other state in the [visa free] Schengen zone should not issue visas to the Russian players to enter our territory,” Czech Republic deputy foreign minister Martin Smolek said in a statement.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press that he has “no concern” with Russian players entering the Czech Republic in two weeks.
“I’m not anticipating any issues with our guys being able to go over,” Grier concurred, saying that he’d let the NHL take the lead on it.
But Grier took the lead, at least for the San Jose Sharks organization: “I’m a pretty firm believer [that] we’re a team here. We’re a group. It’s not the players’ fault. They didn’t do anything wrong. So I don’t think they should be punished for it.
“We stand with them and we’re all together as one in here.”
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