Dominik Hasek is indignant, nervous and at the least a little bit scared.
Hasek grew up beneath Communist rule when the Czech Republic was a part of the previous Eastern bloc. He was 3 when the Soviet Army invaded to quash the Prague Spring of 1968. His nation didn’t emerge from beneath the Soviet Union’s thumb till 1989.
As a Czech sports activities icon, businessman, historical past scholar, aspiring politician with a watch on the presidency and — maybe most significantly — father of a 1-year-old son, Hasek feels obligation sure to voice his opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We know that if we don’t stop the Russians in Ukraine,” stated Hasek, “then we will be one of the next in line and the tens of thousands of dead and mass graves will be on our territory.
“Russia must be defeated and forced back into its territory. There is no other way to peace. Believe that.”
In interviews with The Athletic by means of e-mail and by telephone from his residence within the tiny city of Novy Knin, the legendary Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings goaltender insisted the NHL has an obligation to rebuke Russia and droop Russians from taking part in.
Hasek considers the participation of Russian athletes sportswashing, the place dishonorable beliefs will be neglected within the identify of competitors and leisure.
“It should be remembered,” Hasek stated, “that the participation of Russian ice hockey players in the NHL is a billion-dollar advertisement for the Russian state and its actions.
“Perhaps some cannot imagine how their participation and achievements among us help the moral self-confidence of their nation, increase the morale of the nation, including the work morale, and this also applies to their army. And, of course, it strengthens all the pro-Russian forces in the world.
“I think that the value of all Russian athletes who compete with us is in tennis or hockey, etcetera, is worth many hundreds of billions of dollars annually to Russia and its imperialist war. And we give it to them for free, unfortunately.”
Hasek could be the best goaltender of all time and definitely was probably the most malleable, a blast of Silly String each time a puck entered the crease. The Dominator gained two Hart Trophies, six Vezina Trophies, two Stanley Cup championships and an Olympic gold medal because of his uniquely unsolvable unpredictability.
On this topic, although, he’s unbendable.
“In the case of Russia, it is at least an imperialist war and suppression of freedom of speech and democracy,” Hasek stated. “Why am I talking about the NHL approach? The NHL was and is a very important part of my life. It gave me so much, and I care about it so much.
“That’s why I want the NHL to make the right decisions that benefit both it and all the people on our planet. And, of course, I assume that even the most beautiful game in the world is not (worth) more than human life.”
Hasek has been talking out since Feb. 24, the day Russia attacked Ukraine.
He tweeted that Washington Capitals star and Vladimir Putin supporter Alexander Ovechkin was “chickens–t” for what Hasek thought of wishy-washy remarks in regards to the invasion.
“I called him chickens–t because I was very upset with what he said,” Hasek stated. “He said politics is not connected to sports, and he doesn’t know about war. Of course, there is a lot he can do.”
Hasek stated the league’s choice to let Russians play NHL Global Series video games on Oct. 7 and eight in Prague was “a gross insult to our democratic country and its people.”
Three weeks earlier than the Nashville Predators swept each video games towards the San Jose Sharks, the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs despatched a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly to warn them that any Russian staff could be denied visas. But two weeks later — with the NHL not backing down — the Czech authorities acquiesced, dropping its try to forestall Russians from taking part in.
Predators heart Yakov Trenin skated each video games, whereas Sharks winger Evgeny Svechnikov performed one. A 3rd Russian, injured Sharks winger Alexander Barabanov, didn’t make the European journey.
“It is something extremely offensive to me,” “Hasek said, “and the NHL and its management must be held accountable for this.
“I want all NHL fans, all NHL sponsors and partners around the world, to know how the NHL has behaved towards our country.”
Withholding these two gamers may need doomed the NHL’s first video games exterior North America since 2019. Sharks normal supervisor Mike Grier declared towards the tip of coaching camp that if anyone from his roster was barred, then his total group would refuse to journey.
Many others additionally disagree with Hasek, with the most typical rebuttal citing these Russian hockey gamers didn’t invade Ukraine and don’t should have their careers derailed.
“I do not blame the Russian hockey players for anything,” Hasek stated, “and that they should be banned from the NHL immediately and sent home immediately — unless some or many of them get refugee status — is in no way a punishment.
“However, it is a must if we are serious about helping Ukraine and ending the war faster. It will help save not only tens of thousands of Ukrainian, but also Russian, lives.”
An NHL supply who noticed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs letter and requested for anonymity stated the league didn’t learn the doc the identical means Hasek did and the Czech Republic authorities offered “numerous assurances” on the problem.
But a press release to The Athletic final week from Martin Smolek, deputy minister for authorized and consular affairs, appeared to assist Hasek’s perspective of the unique letter:
“Since the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Czech Republic holds the position shared by several other EU member states, that non-essential travel, such as tourism, sport or culture, in the EU by Russian citizens should not be allowed.
“In line with these measures, Czech MFA informed the NHL that Czech Republic cannot issue visas for Russian players for the NHL match held in Prague.
“The efforts of Dominik Hasek in this matter are his private activity. However, as stated above, they are not unaligned to the approach of the Czech MFA.”
Global Series video games had been introduced in April, however deliberate earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine. The groups took constitution flights to Europe. The Predators performed an exhibition in Switzerland and the Sharks in Germany.
Had the groups flown straight from the United States into Prague, the Russian gamers would have been denied entry. But visas for the Schengen space — a large, passport-free European Union zone — created a loophole, permitting Russians free passage throughout the Czech border from different EU international locations.
“At the very beginning of the war, the Czech Republic has imposed several measures restricting accepting visa applications and entry requirements for Russian citizens,” Smolek stated. “These measures are being further strengthened.”
Other nations have drawn a line within the ice too. Daly acknowledged to the media after the NHL’s Board of Governors assembly final week that the concept of Russia taking part within the 2024 World Cup of Hockey has grow to be untenable so long as Ukraine stays beneath assault, including that there are European international locations that additionally oppose permitting Russians to compete as a impartial squad.
The NHL is holding Global Series video games Nov. 4-5 in Finland. There has been no indication the Columbus Blue Jackets’ three Russian gamers and the Colorado Avalanche’s two Russian gamers will probably be restricted there.
In Hasek’s view, the NHL’s strategy to such a pivotal worldwide problem is shameful, has ruined Bettman’s integrity, and renders the league unwelcome within the Czech Republic.
“Gary Bettman and Bill Daly must resign from the NHL,” Hasek stated. “The way they behaved towards our country and the fact that they did not respect the position of our ministry on our sovereign territory is inexcusable.
“If they continue to lead the NHL, which is likely in the near future, I do not want the NHL to come to our territory. I will act accordingly. If the next management apologizes for their attitude, I will be pleased and very happy to welcome the NHL to the Czech Republic again.”
The NHL didn’t reply to a request for touch upon Hasek’s condemnation.
Hasek additionally has urged the Czech authorities to forbid its individuals from working in Russia and taking part in within the KHL.
Several main sports activities organizations have banned athletes from Russia and Belarus or have mandated they compete as neutrals. Belarus permitted Russian forces to make use of its territory for the army buildup previous to the invasion of Ukraine.
Russians and Belarusians had been barred from FIFA World Cup qualifying, Wimbledon, the Paralympic Winter Games, International Skating Union world championships, and world monitor and subject championships.
In asserting the monitor and subject choice, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe stated it was “the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace.”
The International Olympic Committee really helpful Russia and Belarus be stripped of internet hosting scheduled sporting occasions, their nationwide flags not be flown and their anthems not be performed no matter the place a contest is held.
Formula 1 canceled the Russian Grand Prix for September and declared it by no means would return. UEFA stripped St. Petersburg of internet hosting this yr’s Champions League remaining.
The International Ice Hockey Federation moved its 2023 world championships from St. Petersburg to Finland and Latvia.
“It must be said that many are afraid and not a little,” Hasek stated. “I feel it both in society and in my family.
“The practices of the Russian secret services are very well known in our country. It is even more difficult to understand that most democratic countries routinely give Russians tourist visas as well as other visas. All of this makes our country much more dangerous for our citizens.”
Eventually, Hasek’s opinions about Russians, Belarusians and the NHL’s presence inside the Czech Republic may grow to be official coverage, a chance 70,000 countrymen couldn’t have absolutely fathomed once they chanted “Hasek to the Castle!” after the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
The delirious horde in Old Town Square meant the president’s workplace in Prague Castle.
A hockey gold medal was valuable to the Czechs, however how they earned it mattered extra. Hasek’s magnificent shootout denials of Canadian superstars Theoren Fleury, Ray Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros and Brendan Shanahan catapulted the Czechs to a gold medal showdown, the place Hasek shut out the Russians.
Hasek has been a nationwide treasure ever since.
He plans to get entangled in Czech politics and discover a possible presidential marketing campaign. The Czech authorities is a parliamentary democracy, with a president as head of state with restricted powers and a first-rate minister as head of presidency.
Hasek stated he is not going to run within the 2023 election and, if he’s aligned with the winner, wouldn’t problem in 2028 both. Czech presidents serve a most of two five-year phrases. He turns 58 in January.
“After looking at it deeply, I realized if I want to be president one day I have to become an experienced politician first,” stated Hasek, who majored in historical past whereas incomes a instructing diploma on the University of Hradec Kralove. “I don’t feel I’m ready at this time. There are some other people who are better suited at this moment to be a good president for the Czech Republic.
“But I will be more involved in politics and do my best for the people of the Czech Republic. I believe I will like it, and I will be helpful for the people. But until you do the job, you cannot say 100 percent you are the best person.”
The phrase “political arena” exists as a result of authorities and sports activities are kindred vocations. Hasek expects the identical aggressive hearth that led him to 389 wins, 81 shutouts and a .922 save share will drive him in politics.
As a part of his shifting life-style, he has turned over day-to-day operations of his beverage firm, Smarty, to a enterprise accomplice.
“Like in sport, you lose some days, but you work hard to win the next day,” Hasek stated. “In politics, you might lose a lot before you win.
“It’s lots of work to convince the people that your ideas are good for them, but if you continue to work hard you can be successful.”
Hasek’s motivation was strengthened a yr in the past by the delivery of his third little one.
For virtually half Hasek’s life, his homeland was a Soviet satellite tv for pc.
Michael and Dominika had been born in 1990 and 1994, the Kremlin’s shadow not traversing the Carpathian Mountains. When he retired from the Red Wings, Hasek and his ex-wife, Alena, had been decided to lift their kids within the Czech Republic so they might higher perceive and respect their heritage.
Hasek needs to make sure the identical expertise for Honza, the son he had along with his accomplice, Lenka.
“It’s most important,” stated Hasek, “that he will live in a free country and in a country where the Czech people will decide what they want, not some other country. I believe that he should live in peace like we’ve lived in the Czech Republic for at least the last 30 years.
“Even before, we weren’t in war, but we were under Russian rule. I don’t want what happened before to us to happen to him.”
(Photo of Dominik Hasek from 2017: Dave Sandford / NHLI through Getty Images)