By Rochelle Bergman
On May 20th 2015, I wrote a column called O Canada, Will Be Sung! The column was about a game which played on Sunday May 17th 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. It was the gold medal game of the IIHF World Hockey Championships. Canada played Russia, winning the competition with a final score of 6-1.
The controversy wasn’t during play but what happened after the game. Instead of staying on the ice and standing still for the National Anthem of Canada along with other medal winners; the Russian players skated off the ice towards their dressing room. The team’s defense was that the rink side door was open and they assumed that they could leave the ice. No other team has ever been confused by the protocol of the end of annual championship before in the IIHF. All teams stay on the ice till the very end which includes all medal presentations and anthems. So why did the Russians do this? We will probably never know. Could the feeling of defeat really have taken them to an ugly place? Who knows? Regardless of their motivation, the IIHF issued a ruling and a fine as a result of their behavior.
The IIHF ruled that the Russians left the ice in a bad display of sportsmanship. The open gate was not an excuse to skate off the ice right then. A fine of $85,000 was assessed to the Russian national team. The IIHF also stated that the players and officials knew the rules before the game. They knew that this was a medal game and a ceremony was going to take place after the game. The ruling said that Kovalchuk through a “head gesture” told his teammates to skate off the ice after getting their silver medals. Kovalchuk who played in the NHL for three years as a New Jersey Devil should have known better.
As a fan of hockey in general I am hurt that one player cannot stand up and cheer for another. I cannot believe that any player who knows the rules can forget them in a moment of despair for not coming in first. Hockey is sportsmanship. Hockey is working together as a team, but it’s more than that. Yes, it is playing to win, but it is playing to win with respect for the other team. To know that everyone is equal underneath their sweaters. Dignity with skates on. I really don’t know why the Russians skated off the ice on May 17th in Prague but it felt like a slap across the face for me as a hockey lover and as a Canadian. That may never have been their intention, but that, for me, was the emotion sparked by their lack of sportsmanship.