Leading up to Sochi, Russia's anti-gay laws are a hot topic because a) Russia has them, and b) that's terrible. As the players looking to represent their country head to their respective orientation camps, querying them about their stance on these laws has been a top priority.
By and large, most have voiced their disagreement with these laws, which makes sense, since Russia shouldn't have them. Pavel Datsyuk's "I'm an Orthodox and that says it all" was probably the closest any player has come to an endorsement.
That is, until Ilya Kovalchuk weighed in on Monday.
“I agree, of course,” Kovalchuk said to TSN, via Sports Illustrated. “I’m Russian and we all have to respect that. It’s personal and, like I said, it’s a free world, but that’s our line. That’s our country, so everybody has to respect that.”
I'm not entirely sure they do. I don't. I'd assume the gay community probably doesn't, and especially the gay community in Russia. We might also all have something to say about Kovalchuk's notion that it's a free world. In a free world, you don't get imprisoned for loving someone, last I checked.
In Kovalchuk's defence, speaking out against the law might amount to homosexual propaganda, which is also against the law. (Just one more hazard of the free world, I guess.) But if that's the concern, try the Alex Ovechkin approach and just dodge the question.
"Our job is to play," Ovechkin said Monday. "I’d rather speak about that.”
So would we, especially if your other option is giving a heinous, heinous law -- one that criminalized telling a gay teen it gets better, for instance -- a personal stamp of approval.
Meanwhile, other players spoke out against the law.
"It’s hard to go into a country that supports something like that," Braden Holtby said (although, if invited, he probably still will).
Dan Boyle was similarly critical: "On Russia’s stance, I don’t agree with it," he said. "I just don’t agree. I think, gay or not, that shouldn’t change anything. Not a big fan of that."
Sidney Crosby, ever the diplomat, put it more delicately: “I think that everyone has an equal right to play and I think we’ve been supportive of that,” he said. “With the Olympics and the controversy around that, I think those decisions and those laws aren’t necessarily something that I agree with personally . . . their laws and their views.”
Team USA is scheduled to speak later today, and one assumes their invitees will likely echo Canada's, since these comments probably aren't going to go over well in North America. Except maybe in New Jersey, where the Devils public relations department is probably happy Kovalchuk is no longer a team employee.
Follow Harrison Mooney on Twitter at @HarrisonMooney
- Ilya Kovalchuk