The Washington Capitals released a statement Tuesday that condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine but made it clear the team stands in "full support" of its Russia-born players. "Monumental Sports & Entertainment and the Washington Capitals join the National Hockey League in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the loss of innocent life. We urge and hope for a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible," the Capitals said.
It's the first statement the Capitals have made about the war in Ukraine, coming 11 days after captain Alex Ovechkin made his only comments about the Russian invasion.
Ovechkin, 36, has been an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the years. In 2017, he campaigned on behalf of Putin by starting a social media movement called Putin Team. His Instagram profile photo features him posing with Putin.
"Please, no more war. It doesn't matter who is in the war -- Russia, Ukraine, different countries -- we have to live in peace," Ovechkin said Feb. 25.
When asked whether he supports Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Ovechkin said, "I'm Russian, right? It's not something I can control. It's not in my hands. I hope it's going to end soon and there's going to be peace in both countries. I don't control this one."
"The Capitals also stand in full support of our Russian players and their families overseas. We realize they are being put in a difficult situation and stand by to offer our assistance to them and their families," the team said.
Ovechkin lamented that the invasion had been a "hard situation" for him.
"Obviously, it's a hard situation. I have lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine, and it's hard to see the war. I hope soon it's going to be over and there's going to be peace in the whole world," he said.
In Calgary on Tuesday night, the Capitals are scheduled to play their first road game since Ovechkin's news conference. When asked by ESPN whether there would be any restrictions on signs or flags supporting Ukraine under the circumstances, the Flames referred only to the existing arena policy at Saddledome that allows "small hand-held signs and flags" that "may not be distasteful in nature or content."
In a show of support for Ukraine, the Flames had Ukrainian Canadian opera singer Stephania Romaniuk perform the nation's national anthem before their game Monday night against Edmonton.
According to TSN's Salim Nadim Valji, the Flames "have no plans moving forward to feature Ukraine's national anthem before games." The team has featured either a message in support of Ukraine or the performance of the anthem in its two home games since the Russian invasion began.