In 2017, the NHL announced its plans to give hockey fans outside of North America a chance to watch some of the best players on the planet do their thing in person by announcing the debut of the “Global Series” that kicked off when the Senators and the Avalanche faced off in Stockholm.
The league expanded the initiative in the two years that followed, as multiple teams made the trek to Europe to faceoff in some exhibitions with local clubs as well as regular season games that were hosted on rinks located in Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic.
It’s safe to assume a similar showcase would’ve been held in 2020 and 2021 if it wasn’t for a certain global health crisis that made traveling thousands of miles across international borders a fairly difficult (and somewhat ill-advised) venture, but earlier this year, the NHL announced the Global Series would be making its grand return at the start of October.
However, it appears another international crisis has thrown a bit of a hitch in those plans.
The Czech Republic has warned the NHL it may not welcome Russian players into the country when the Sharks and the Predators head there to play
As things currently stand, the Sharks and the Predators are slated to kick off the regular season on October 7th when they take to the ice at O2 Arena in Prague for a back-to-back two-game showdown.
However, according to ESPN, the Czech Foreign Ministry recently sent the league a letter concerning a mandate that states it should currently “not issue visas to the Russian players to enter our territory” (if you’re somehow confused about the rationale behind that policy, a Google search containing the words “Russia” and “Ukraine” should clear things up fairly quickly).
As the outlet notes, both team’s rosters are currently home to a total of three Russian nationals: Yakov Trenin plays forward for Nashville, while San Jose employs wingers Alexander Barabanov and Evgeny Svechnikov (the second of whom is on a two-way contract). The Czech government has not shown any signs it’s considering an outright ban, although things could heat up as the games get closer.
With that said, NHL deputy commissioner told ESPN he does not believe there will ultimately be an issue. The Predators have not chimed in, but Sharks Captain Logan Couture and GM Mike Grier made it clear they have no intention of allowing the warning to influence the list of players they’ll be sending to Prague.
This isn’t the first time Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had an impact on the NHL
In March, the Capitals caught plenty of heat for seemingly banning signs featuring references to Ukraine from Capital One Arena after Alexander Ovechkin was roundly criticized for his statements concerning the invasion and his well-documented relationship with the man who ordered it.
Over the summer, the Russian government also threatened to conscript multiple NHL players and prevent them from leaving the country, although it doesn’t appear any of the guys who were targeted were ultimately befell that fate.