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Ukrainian Flags Fly in Protest at Sharks Game



The typical American is used to burying their head in the sand when it comes to foreign wars.

And in truth, there’s reason for it: It’s probably hard to imagine the gravity of something happening thousands of miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean.

But that isn’t the case with everybody in America. On Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of neighboring Ukraine for dubious-at-best reasons. Tonight, small but demonstrative groups of fans brought Ukrainian flags to SAP Center for a 3-1 San Jose Sharks’ loss to the Boston Bruins.

There was no indication that any of the San Jose Sharks or Boston players noticed.

However, the demonstrations didn’t stop in the stands: According to San Jose Hockey Now writer Lizz Child, who was at SAP Center, 30-35 fans congregated outside after the game, rallying with their flags.

“It was kind of incredible to see,” Child said. “I think there were three or four groups with flags that found each other.”

In the big picture, of course, 30 is a small number. But big things often start small.

The protests against Putin’s incursion aren’t as small in Europe, even in sports.

In soccer, both Poland and Sweden have already declared that they will refuse to play Russia in next month’s World Cup playoffs.

In addition, the Italian Football Federation will start all their matches five minutes late this weekend in protest.

In tennis, Qatar Open champion Iga Swiatek, from Poland, said after her victory: “I want to show my support to all the people who are suffering in Ukraine.”

In skiing, the Norwegian Ski Federation told Russian skiers that they’re weren’t welcome to compete in Norway.

And even in hockey, Finnish side Jokerit Helsinki pulled out of the 2022 KHL playoffs.

Of course, the NHL has an important relationship with Russia, with so many of its stars from Alex Ovechkin to Artemi Panarin hailing from there. Alexander Barabanov and Nikolai Knyzhov make up the Russian contingent for the San Jose Sharks.

At the moment, there are no Ukrainian players in the NHL.

“Please, no more war,” Ovechkin offered yesterday. The Russian winger is one of the league’s biggest stars and has long-standing ties with Putin.

Panarin, one of the few Russian-born athletes to publicly speak out against Putin in the past, hasn’t commented.

It’s complicated for Russian NHL’ers, to say the least. Most have family members back in Russia, and there’s a legitimate fear of reprisal if they do come out against Putin.

But as tonight in SAP Center suggested, it’s only beginning, be it the Russian invasion of Ukraine, protests around the world, and how the NHL and its Russian players will grapple with it all.

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