New San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier said his team will not play two regular-season games in Prague next month if the Czech government bans Russian players.
“We’re a team, so if they say some guys can’t go, it’s either we all go or nobody,” Grier told reporters Thursday. “But I don’t expect any problems now.”
The Sharks and Nashville Predators are scheduled to open the 2022-23 regular season at the O2 Arena with back-to-back games on October 7th and 8th. This is the first time the NHL will play regular season games outside of North America since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But due to the ongoing war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion earlier this year, Russian-born athletes have been banned or not allowed to compete under the country’s flag, notably with Wimbledon barring players from Russia and Belarus this year.
“We can confirm that the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a letter to the NHL stating that at this time the Czech Republic or any other state in the (visa-free) Schengen zone should not issue visas to Russian players for entry. our territory,” Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek said in a statement to the Associated Press.
The Sharks now have two Russian players who can make it to the NHL: forwards Alexander Barabanov and Yevhen Svechnikov. “Predators” forward Yakov Trenin.
Before the games in Prague, the Sharks will play an exhibition game in Berlin on October 4 as part of the NHL Global Series. Until now, Germany has not yet made a similar statement about the admission of Russian players to the country.
“I don’t know how it’s going to go as far as losses and things like that. That’s up to the league,” Grier said. “But I’m pretty adamant (that) we’re a team here, we’re a group, and it’s not the players’ fault. They didn’t do anything wrong. So I don’t think they should be punished for that.
“We support them and we are all together as one. If it comes down to it, and hopefully it won’t — and I don’t expect it to — we’ll do things as a group.”
The Predators released a statement saying, “We understand the league is working on this matter and have been told it does not expect there to be any issues with Russian players traveling to or playing in Global Series games.”