This is uncharted territory the Nashville Predators find themselves in as training camp is in full swing, but their season-opener less than two weeks away hanging under a cloud of uncertainty.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has left the Global Series between the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks on October 7 and 8 in doubt from even happening, pending a decision from the NHL.
Nashville Predators Awaiting Response from NHL on Czechian Government’s stance on Russian Players
Per a report from the Tennessean, Nashville Predators Head Coach John Hynes stated that the decision to go on as planned to play the games in Prague, Czech Republic is “in the hands of the league”, and the team’s official statement includes “no final decision has been made” as of Friday.
The Czechian government has made it clear that Russian players are not welcome due to the war in Ukraine, and that would affect a key starter for the Nashville Predators in Yakov Trenin.
Trenin has already been seen at Predators training camp getting his work in for the infamous “Herd Line”, which was the most consistent forward line for the team last season. Breaking it up would be a hard pill to swallow to open the season:
You can’t leave out Egor Afanasyev, who is also of Russian nationality and battling for a spot on this team. Although his chances may be low, he had an outstanding rookie camp and does have at least a chance of making the NHL cut out of training camp.
The San Jose Sharks also have a Russian player who would be affected in Evgeny Svechnikov, who registered 19 points in 72 games last season for the Winnipeg Jets.
This is of course an extremely complex ordeal, and the NHL has their backs up against the wall with not much time to come up with a plan.
The league has heavily marketed the Global Series that was already affected by the Covid-19 pandemic from happening, and this was going to be a great opportunity to showcase the league on the international stage to open the 2022-23 season.
However, not letting players play in a game due to their nationality and in return hurting the teams involved brings up an issue of tainting the sanctity and fairness of the game. What kind of message does that send to your players that they can be kept from playing due to their nationality?
Moving the Games Back to the States Might Be Only Way
It would definitely be challenging to reschedule and issue a lot of refunds, but I’m not sure what other choice they have without putting both teams at disadvantages losing a key player, and what kind of message does that send to Trenin and Svechnikov or who have nothing to do with these global affairs other than their nationality? Just doesn’t seem appropriate to have the games played at this time.
Furthermore, what happens if one or both of the team’s decide not to play if they can’t have all of their players play? San Jose Sharks General Manager Mike Grier has already made his stance pretty clear that if all of his players can’t play, then they won’t go to Prague for the games.
There should be an NHL decision on this dilemma in the next week. They need to act fast, and the most logical, but difficult choice, might be to postpone the games to a later date. The fallback plan if you can’t reschedule the games in Prague is to just make-up the games in each of the home sites of the Predators and Sharks.
After their two scheduled games in the Global Series against the Sharks, the Predators have a four-day gap before playing their home-opener at Bridgestone Arena against the Dallas Stars. Perhaps one of the two games can be moved into that four-day slot, and I’m sure tickets would go fast for those local fans of either market.
It’s understandable that the league doesn’t want to lose out on revenue from the Global Series by postponing it and issuing refunds, but there are much more egregious humanitarian issues at play in this devastating war that exceed ticket sales for a hockey game. If the games have to be moved back to the states, then so be it.