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Russian Goalies, Especially Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy, Are Stealing the Show


“Banning team sports, particularly ones that represent Russia, is actually justified,” he said. “However it could be hard to exclude the hockey players. The toughest one to justify could be banning Vasilevskiy or Shesterkin.”

Frye has traveled to Russia frequently since 1985 and has been to a couple of half-dozen hockey games there, each before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He said that when he watches the N.H.L. now, he wonders why the Russian players aren’t more of a discussion in hockey for the reason that invasion, versus in soccer and tennis.

But he understands why the players are reluctant to talk publicly concerning the situation.

“Individual Russians tackle great risk to specific opposition,” Frye said. “A variety of them even have family back in Russia who’re vulnerable, and everybody understands that. There’s great cost in speaking out. It’s an actual thing.”

Frye said there’s also the likelihood that players may very well be excluded from Russian national teams in the long run, like tennis’s Davis Cup, the Olympic teams or the national hockey and soccer teams. He said even taking a neutral position is frowned upon, and there’s the specter of long jail sentences for individuals who criticize the invasion.

Despite the conflict and uncertainty, the N.H.L.’s Russians play on.

“It must be an especially difficult situation,” Cooper said. “Whenever you’ve got a large ocean in between what’s occurring, it probably makes a bit little bit of a difference.” He added: “Ultimately, it comes all the way down to the fellows having to do their job. But it could’t be easy. You only feel for everybody.”

There have been 327 N.H.L. players born in Russia or the Soviet Union, in accordance with Hockey Reference, and only 26 of them were goalies, starting with Sergei Mylnikov, who made his debut with the Quebec Nordiques in 1989. Of the Russian-born goalies, 10 were lively this 12 months (11, if you happen to include the Russian-trained Georgiev), and all were born after 1993.

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