Hertl and Simek want their Russian teammates to play in Prague

The San Jose Sharks are closing ranks around their Russian teammates.

Yesterday, general manager Mike Grier sparked something of an international incident when he said, regarding the Czech NHL’s plan to ban Russian players from the Sharks’ upcoming season-opening games in Prague, ” Either we all go or no one goes.”

Grier: ‘Either we all go or nobody goes’

Czech Sharks players Tomas Hertl and Radim Simek left no doubt of their immediate loyalty.

“We support the team, and especially Barbie,” Hertl said of Russian teammate Alexander Barabanov. “I played a lot of hockey with him last year and he’s a great guy. It is a difficult situation. It’s not the players mistake and he shouldn’t be punished for it. He’s one of the nicest guys ever.

Simek echoed his compatriot: “I support [Grier’s statement], for sure. If Barbie stays here, our whole team should stay here.

“I don’t agree with the war. But Barbie is not part of the war.

It’s a complicated situation, but the San Jose Sharks know where they stand.

To the condemnation of most members of the international community, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and is still waging war there.

Against that backdrop, San Jose and Nashville are set to kick off the NHL regular season on October 7-8 at the O2 Arena in Prague.

Sanctions were imposed on Russian athletes in the sports world because of Putin’s war. In hockey, for example, the CHL banned Russian and Belarusian players from their most recent import draft.

The NHL also suspended business partnerships in Russia and also publicly condemned the war.

But it’s clear the league doesn’t see a handful of Russian NHL players playing in Prague at the same level.

NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press that he has “no concerns” about the possibility of Russian NHL players participating in games on October 7 and 8.

He added in a text to San Jose Hockey Now, “Everyone who needs visas already has them.”

So the campaign to ban Russian NHL players from the Czech side of the Global Series might be a moot point.

But it’s already had an effect on the San Jose Sharks locker room, minimal as it may be overall.

Evgeny Svechnikov, who just signed with the Sharks, was unaware of Grier’s statement yesterday.

“I love him. You feel amazing,” the clearly emotional Russian winger shared. “It makes you feel like part of the team.”

Hertl noted, “It’s been a tough three years without the playoffs, so first of all we have to get everyone back. Helping each other, it doesn’t matter if it’s a staff member, a player, we just have to stick together.”

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Berta D. Wells