Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin announced today via Instagram that he is creating a “social movement” called “Putin Team,” which he says is meant to unite Russia and support its current president, Vladimir Putin.
In the post, he explicitly compares the feeling of allying with and supporting Putin to representing the Russian National Hockey Team.
“Personal achievements and medals – all of this great, but in hockey, like with everything, to win it’s important to have a team. Only a team is capable of changing the course of a game, achieve the impossible. Lately, in the Western Press, I’m noticing a comparison to Putin’s team. And you know, I really liked that comparison. Personally, I’m ready to be a member of that team. I never hid my relationship with our president, always openly supported him.
“I’m certain that there are many of us that support Vladimir Putin. Let’s unite and show everyone a strong and united Russia. Today, I want to announce a social movement in the name of Putin Team. Be a part of this team – to me it’s a privilege, it’s like the feeling of when you put on the jersey of the Russian team, knowing that the whole country is rooting for you.”
It’s unclear what exactly “a social movement” means in practice, but it’s a logical if unconventional step for a player who has long enjoyed a close relationship with Russia’s leader. Ovechkin has attempted to remain publicly neutral on all political issues throughout his career, but he and Putin are often seen together and publicly exchange compliments. (It’s a balancing act that particularly forced some quick explaining when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.) This summer, Putin even sent Ovechkin and his now-wife a wedding gift.
While Putin has yet to officially announce that he is seeking another term, Russia has a presidential election coming up in March. A month before that, the Russian hockey squad (sans NHL players) that Ovechkin links so closely to Putin will be the Olympic gold-medal favorites in Pyeongchang.