It’s official: The Czech Republic will allow the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators to bring their Russian players into the country.
The Sharks and Predators are scheduled to open the NHL’s regular season in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8, as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
Tomas Pojar, Advisor for Foreign and Security Policy for the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, confirmed to Czech news outlet Seznam Zpravy: “This is a private event, they have visas, so from the state’s point of view there is no reason not to let them in. National security is certainly not threatened by their presence. And I’m not even mentioning that, in addition to Schengen visas, they have long-term American work visas and live in the USA.”
This follows what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly revealed to San Jose Hockey Now last Friday: “Everyone who needs visas already has them.” That included, for the San Jose Sharks, Russian winger Alexander Barabanov.
A Schengen visa is a short-term visa, covering 26 mostly-European Union countries, that allows its holders to freely travel thorough these countries. It’s essentially one visa for 26 countries, and the Czech Republic is one of them.
That’s a neat way to tie up a potentially messy problem.
Two weeks ago, the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the NHL, telling the league that its Russian players weren’t welcome to Prague for the upcoming Global Series.
This was a show of solidarity with Ukraine. To the condemnation of most in the international community, Russian president Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022 and is still waging war there.
On the first day of training camp, San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier responded to reports that the Czech Republic would bar his Russian players by declaring, “Either we all go, or no one goes.”
And though Barabanov and company have valid visas, up to just now, it still appeared possible that the Czech Republic could force a stand-off where the NHL and the San Jose Sharks might have to choose between the Prague games and their own Russian players.
But the NHL has also confirmed, through Live Nation, the promoter of the Global Series, that the event will go as planned: “While world events have created understandable uncertainty around many sporting events, Live Nation has been assured and would like to assure all Czech fans that the 2022 NHL Global Series games between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks will take place as scheduled on October 7th and 8th in Prague’s O2 arena.”
Special thanks to Petr Pravda of Seznam Zpravy for his help with this story.
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