An update this time around with really only one story: the Oswald Commission’s decision on the Russian women’s national team came down today. Six players from the 2014 Olympic squad, of the seven under investigation, have been convicted of doping offenses at the 2014 Olympic Games, and have received life-time bans from the Olympic Games. The six are: Inna Dyubanok, Yekaterina Lebedeva, Yekaterina Pashkevich, Anna Shibanova, Galina Skiba, and Yekaterina Smolentseva. The seventh player in the group, Anna Shokhina, was cleared of any wrong-doing. The Oswald Commission also annulled Team Russia’s sixth-place finish at the 2014 games.
Read on, for some thoughts and quotes.
The usual Monday women’s hockey update will be along on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, as I’m waiting on the resolution of a couple of newsworthy items. In the meantime, do check out the interview with Agidel Ufa and Russian national team forward Olga Sosina!
If you would like a bit of weekend reading, I invite you to check out my translation of an interview from this past week with Russian women’s national team and Agidel Ufa forward Olga Sosina. The 25-year-old from Almetyevsk, in the Republic of Tatarstan, is for my money the best player in the Russian women’s program; there are certainly other serious contenders for that title, but few can match Sosina’s combination of speed, strength, and skill (see video above). She’s very good, is what I’m saying, and if you have been following the Russian women’s hockey coverage here for any length of time at all, you have doubtless seen mention of her.
Enjoy the interview — and my apologies for any errors or misunderstandings in the translation!
As promised yesterday, we will take a break from the Olympic story at this point and talk some hockey (there’s nothing really new to report on the Olympics today anyway). Despite the fact that it is still only early December, the 2017-18 KHL season is coming into the last turn with the home stretch not far away. As of today (Friday, Dec. 8th), only Jokerit have not yet played two-thirds of their games, and that will be rectified tomorrow. Now, in actual calendar terms, the end of the regular season is still some ways off (early March, due to the Olympic break), but it is not too soon I think to take a look at some of the storylines that have been developing this season, and that will reach their climaxes in the games to come. Read on, as we delve into the KHL individual points race…
So where do we stand today, after Tuesday’s IOC announcement that Russian athletes can compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics only under the neutral flag? On Wednesday, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin rejected the idea of a Russian boycott of the Games, although a final decision will be made by the athletes on December 12th. In the meantime, we still await comment from the IIHF on the matter (beyond the quote included below), and we also do not yet have any official statement from the Russian Hockey Federation. Nor do we know for sure what the KHL’s next move will be.
However, a number of people associated with Russian hockey have spoken up, and I have selected a few of the more representative and interesting quotes (I will probably add more as they come along). Read on (and tomorrow, barring any thunderous news, we go back to talking about actual hockey)…
The International Olympic Committee handed down its decision this afternoon on Russia’s participation in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, following allegations of doping at the 2014 Games. The verdict, briefly: Russian athletes may participate, but only under a neutral flag and anthem (the will be officially known as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”).
So what now? And particularly, “what now” for the hockey side of things, which is after all the focus of this blog. Well, we have far more questions than answers at the moment, all of them variations on the theme of “what happens now?” and here are a few of them (answers will be provided as I get them):
Will Russia participate in the Games at all? That we may find out tomorrow. (h/t to Tomáš Vorčák) There will be considerable pressure to boycott the games entirely, so we will see which way things go. If we don’t have get a definitive word tomorrow, then December 12th (next Tuesday) appears to be the day. Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov also mentioned the possibility that the Russian team could have its “neutral” status removed by the end of the Pyeongchang competition, and could close the Games under its own flag (see preceding link), which could serve as an inducement to attend — once again, we will see.
Update: Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday:
Will the KHL release its players for the Games? That will apparently be decided at a KHL Board of Directors meeting next week (h/t to Tomáš Vorčák). If Russia does decide to take part in the Olympics under the neutral flag, there should, and I say “should,” be no problem here. If, however, Russia decides on a boycott, things get more complicated. With NHL players sitting these Games out, it is not just the Russian team that will be looking to the KHL for its top players. Were the league to refuse to release its foreign players to their respective national teams (and the Russian State Duma recently proposed a law allowing them to do just that), it could cause some problems with the International Ice Hockey Federation. Which brings us to…
How will the IIHF respond to today’s decision? Almost alone among the individual international sports federations, the IIHF has been staunch and vociferous (and correct, in my opinion) in its opposition to any collective punishment, and in its support for Russian athletes’ right to attend the Games and to do so under their own flag (a number of national hockey federations, have voiced similar support). That battle has been only half won, after today’s IOC decision, and it will be very interesting to see what the IIHF has to say. Update: it looks like we get an answer in the day or two:
Just got off the phone with IIHF president Rene Fasel, who says it’s “too early” to make any declarations on where we go from here. More from Fasel: “We need 24 to 48 hours to see where things are at. This is the first time in history we’ve had to deal with something like this…
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 5, 2017
More Fasel: “We will see where things are tomorrow, in the next 48 hours. We have to see how Russia will react. We need to talk to our (IIHF) people, we need to talk to the Russians. It’s too early make statements.”
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 5, 2017
Other questions as they occur to me, and answers as I get them
On and off the ice, there have been noteworthy developments in Russian women’s hockey over the past seven days, and more than a few! Read on, therefore, for expansion talk, the Oswald Commission and the national team, and whole lot of hockey games in various competitions…
So Mike Keenan’s second tour as a KHL Head Coach turned out to be a brief one. Just three months into his stint behind the bench of Kunlun Red Star Beijing, “Iron Mike” has lost his coaching job at the Chinese club, a few days after he was similarly relieved of his General Manager duties. Read on, for some thoughts.
It was an eventful week in Russian women’s hockey… at least it was eventful on the ice. As far as off-ice matters are concerned, and in particular the Oswald Commission hearing last Wednesday (see last week’s update), well, we are still in some suspense over that. Read on, however, for recaps of what turned out to be a highly entertaining week in the Women’s Hockey League (and lots of links to highlights)!
Have just a couple of weeks ago looked at the current state of attendance in the KHL, I thought it might be an idea to give you a brief look at the buildings involved. So basically, below the jump, I have listed each team’s arena with its year of opening and its capacity, and added a few words I thought it appropriate. Read on…