NHL-linked Russian hockey player wants court to overturn draft

The lawyer for a Russian goaltender who was linked to the NHL before he was abruptly detained outside a St. Petersburg rink in July asked a court in the Leningrad region on Thursday to overturn a decision by the selection committee which led to the player being forced into military Russian.

Ivan Fedotov, 25, signed an entry-level contract in May with the Philadelphia Flyers.

He was supposed to be at the team’s training camp this summer, but was arrested after the Russian military prosecutor’s office suspected him of trying to evade military service and was taken to an enlistment office .

Fedotov’s lawyer, Alexei Ponomarev, filed a lawsuit against Fedotov’s conscription, which the Vsevolozhsk City Court will consider this fall.

Ponomarev told Russian media he believed conscription was illegal because Fedotov does not live in St. Petersburg, where he was drafted into the army. He lives outside the city, but is registered in Moscow where he plays hockey.

“If the decision is found to be illegal, he will be fired whether he is already in service or not,” Ponomarev said in an interview with Russian publication Gazeta.

Ponomarev did not respond to CBC’s interview request.

Russian officials insist the matter is neither political nor personal.

On July 23, Russian Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretiak spoke to Russian media outlet Matchtv and said the law was the same for everyone.

But Russian conscription experts and outside observers say Fedotov is being punished for his NHL ambitions and his desire to leave Russia at a time when his relations with the West are dismal and his political leaders demand unreserved loyalty and patriotism from citizens.

“It is illegal. It violates several articles of the law, but sometimes the authorities resort to it when it is necessary to punish someone and send someone to the army,” said Sergey Krivenko, director of the non-governmental organization Citizen based in Moscow. . Army. Right.

Krivenko, who advises soldiers and their families on conscription rules, told CBC that while Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 must complete a year of military service if drafted, not everyone is not called and there is an arbitrary around who is and when.

Sergey Krivenko, director of the non-governmental organization Citizen. Army. Law., says that not all young men serve in the Russian military because not everyone in the age bracket is automatically called up by the state. He says some avoid conscription through political connections and bribes. (Submitted by RightsinRussia.org)

He said exemptions are frequently granted to the elite and political contacts, while others may offer bribes. Hockey managers who are motivated to protect their players could simply phone a contact to make a request.

“They’ll just ask the defense minister, ‘Don’t call this guy. He will skate.”

Conversely, Krivenko said, if a player has fallen out of favor, hockey officials could call for him to be drafted.

Stellar Season

Fedotov signed a one-year entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted the Russian player in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft and considered him the team’s backup goaltender.

While in custody, the Flyers released a statement saying they were investigating the situation and had no further comment.

For Fedotov, the NHL deal was the culmination of what was considered a breakout season.

He was the starting goaltender for the Russian Olympic Committee team that won silver at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

In late April, his Russian hockey team CSKA won the Continental Hockey League’s top prize, the Gagarin Cup, named after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

CSKA, once heavily affiliated with the Soviet military, is now owned by Russian oil giant Rosneft, whose CEO Igor Sechin is a longtime close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yegor Bulchuk, a sports journalist with online site Championat, said it’s no exaggeration to call Fedotov one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the world.

When asked if he felt like Fedotov was being punished for trying to go to the NHL, he said, “It’s hard to say anything accurately and reliably” regarding this case.

Fedotov is expected to be sworn in on Saturday, nearly a month before his case is due in court.

Fedotov, left, won a silver medal with the rest of the Russian Olympic Committee team at the Beijing Olympics, and was considered to have had a breakout year before his detention. (Reuters)

More hockey players charged

Two other professional hockey players were before a judge in Russia on Wednesday, charged with using a former police officer to help them pay bribes to a military enlistment office in an effort to avoid service.

Russian media reported that both players are under house arrest and face up to 12 years in prison.

Regarding Fedotov’s case, Russian hockey players and officials have spoken very little publicly.

One of the few to express his support for the goalkeeper is Grigori Panin, KHL player and captain of the Salavat Yulaev Ufa team.

On instagramunder a photo he posted of Fedotov, Panin criticized Russia’s “sports circle” for its silence, adding that a similar situation could happen to anyone, especially young players “who glorify Russia in the abroad and defend our flag in different competitions”.

He wrote that Fedotov just wanted to play hockey, but “someone somewhere doesn’t think so. This is a precedent for everyone.”

Panin did not respond to interview requests from the CBC.

Sending a message

Slava Malamud, who used to be a Russian sports journalist and is now a math professor in Baltimore, says hockey in Russia has always been closely tied to politics and the environment is now supercharged.

“The powers that be in Russia are pretty much consolidated around the idea that their country is fighting for its life against the West. So any player who leaves is definitely an ideological blow against that idea.”

Slava Malamud, a former Russian sports journalist who now teaches in the United States, is following Fedotov’s case and thinks it sends a message to other KHL players. (Submitted by Slava Malamud)

Fedotov’s detention, as well as the sanctions and restrictions imposed on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, have some NHL general managers and league officials talking about the potential risk and uncertainty recruiting Russian players. But in last month’s draft, three went in the first round and 23 were selected in total.

Still, Malamud thinks Fedotov was an example, and all KHL players know that.

“I think the message this now sends to young players in Russia [is]: ‘Get out while it’s okay.'”

Catherine J. Martinez