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A picture of Alex Ovechkin with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the ruthless thug who invaded Ukraine, is front and center on the Washington star’s Instagram page. But the NHL would rather look past Ovechkin’s ties to the accused war criminal as the Capitals forward inches closer to Gordie Howe on the all-time goal list.
On Tuesday, Ovechkin became the third player in NHL history to reach the 800-goal mark when he scored a hat trick. With one more goal, he’ll tie Howe for second most all time with 801. Wayne Gretzky has the most career goals with 894.
When Ovechkin inevitably passes Howe, the sports media will debate his place among hockey royalty. In fact, it’s already taking place.
What hasn’t been talked about as much — just as Ovechkin and the NHL hoped — is the forward’s relationship with Putin and the league’s inaction as the war in Ukraine reaches its 10th month.
On Friday, Russia launched “at least 76 missiles” at Ukraine. (h/t CNN)
On Feb. 28, four days after the attack on Ukraine, the NHL released a statement condemning the invasion. But it has remained silent on Ovechkin’s ties to Putin.
On Nov. 2, 2017, Ovechkin announced “a social movement in the name of Putin Team.” He told reporters following a game against the New York Islanders that night, “Like every human from different countries, they support their president.” (h/t Washington Post)
As of Feb. 24, 2022, the accompanying website for “Putin Team” hadn’t been updated “in several years,” per journalist Rick Westhead.