Wayne Gretzky supports stringent hockey sanctions against Russia

·2 min read

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is further defending his comments about preventing Russia’s involvement in the upcoming rescheduled 2022 World Juniors Championship.

Gretzky first made a public call for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to ban the country from participating in the Under-20 tournament during an NHL on TNT broadcast this past Saturday. During a Monday appearance on Sportsnet 590 The FAN, the 61-year-old dove deeper into his reasoning.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Former NHL player Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers walks onstage during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Wayne Gretzky is passionately in favour of hockey sanctions against Russia as major sporting bodies and athletes take a stand against the war Ukraine. (Getty)
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“People don’t know this, or realize it, but the country of Canada, other than I believe Russia and Ukraine, have the most Ukrainians that live in another country. I believe there is close to two million Ukrainians that live here in Canada,” he said.

Gretzky went on to specifically cite the amount of Ukrainian immigrants that have historically settled in Alberta and the city of Edmonton, the city in which the rescheduled tournament will take place.

“I just couldn’t relate to how we were going to welcome a country that is at war, to a city that has tonnes of Ukrainian family members that are still living in the Ukraine. Probably sick to their stomachs about this,” Gretzky continued. “And I got some pushback from people that said ‘Why punish the Russian kids?’ It’s not about punishing the Russian kids. What about the Ukrainian kids that are being killed daily? The Ukrainian kids that are 12 or 14 years old, going to war. I don’t want anybody to be punished. I just think it makes common sense that we shouldn’t compete against this country right now, while they’re at war against an innocent country.”

On Monday, the IIHF did indeed drop the hammer on Russia, and allied Belarus, banning both countries from all club and international competition indefinitely while pulling the 2023 world juniors from Russia.

This follows other statement decisions from individual teams. Finnish-based team Jokerit have withdrawn from the KHL playoffs, and Latvia-based Dinamo Riga took it a step further, withdrawing from the league entirely.

Outside of hockey, Poland, Sweden, and Czechia’s national soccer teams have refused to play against Russia in upcoming World Cup qualifying matches before FIFA announced that Russia won't be allowed to compete at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar regardless.

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