By Rochelle Bergman
The 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championships were played. Canada played Russia. Canada won the game, 6-1. Sounds like an everyday game, doesn’t it? Two teams stand on the ice after one wins. At the end of the world championships, two anthems play through the pipes and then everyone goes home.
How wrong can that be?
On Sunday May 17th in Prague, Czech Republic, it was Team Russia who lost in the gold medal game. Unfortunately, after losing the game to Team Canada, who hadn’t won gold since 2007, most of the players on Team Russia broke protocol by leaving the ice too soon. TASS, the Russian News Agency reported that sanctions might be brought in the form of fines to the Russian team for leaving the ice before the Canadian Anthem was played. Most of the players left the ice to go to the dressing room before “O Canada” was sung. This is considered a breach of sport etiquette and an over all negative act. It shows disrespect for the other team and it’s country. Who does that? I have never heard of a team doing this before. And as the IIHF’s president mentioned when interviewed by TASS, he had not seen such a breach in the 29 years the championship has been taking place.
Not all Russian players left the ice. Dmitry Kulikov, Viktor Tikhonovt, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin stayed on the ice for the anthem and Ovechkin even tried to keep the other players from leaving. Well known in the NHL, these players have experienced international competitions as many levels and understand the rules and sport etiquette of the game.
To be fair, the Russian side said it was a mistake. The Russian Sport Minister, Vitaly Mutko blamed it on the gate being open. Who left the gate leading to the dressing room open? The Tournament Organizers by accident. That action made the Russian players think they could leave the rink area for their dressing room. However, many of these players have participated in past international events, but perhaps the niceties of post-game etiquette slipped their mind. But perhaps more obvious was that this was the end of the entire tournament and there are medals for the teams, individual players acknowledged for their contributions and the general formal closure of such an event. Sure it is painful to stand there after losing an important game, but it is part of the sport and something the players should have done.
The IIHF will be in touch with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation after they return home and have had a chance to investigate the transgression. It is a shame that after having worked hard and reclaimed the gold medal Team Canada’s achievements are overshadowed by this unfortunate reaction by Team Russia. Probably by the time a decision is reached on the punishment the bulk of the world will have moved on, but it is hoped that the punishment is comparable to the disrespect that Team Canada and the citizens of Canada felt. I do wonder what went through the heads of the Canadians as they watched this unusual response to the end of a tournament. Hopefully their joy at winning was all they had in their minds in the end.