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Monday, June 05, 2023

Column: Kings teammates take U.S.A. and Russian rivalry too far

The United States and Russia have long had a bitter rivalry on the rink that dates back to their 1980 “miracle on ice” showdown.

This past Saturday’s matchup between two of the most skilled hockey teams in the Olympics showed no signs of slowing down as the two teams battled to be the top seeds in Group A. You’re probably thinking that what will follow in this column is about the shootout heroics displayed by St. Louis Blues right winger T.J. Oshie, who went 4-for-6 in the shootout to lift Team U.S.A. to the 3-2 victory.

However, while I was reading the recap of the game because, let’s face it, 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday was just a bit too early of a wake-up call for me, I came across something that quickly turned my excitement over the American win into frustration. And suddenly, the rivalry between Russia and the U.S. no longer seemed heated, it seemed decidedly petty.

At one point in the third period, the Russians thought they had taken a 3-2 lead on Fedor Tyutin’s goal. After the referee on the ice had pointed to the net, the rest of the linesman got together to discuss the play.

Per the announcers, it seemed that they were unsure of whether the puck had actually crossed the line since it ricocheted back out so quickly. Yet what we later discovered was that the United States net was off its moorings. By International Ice Hockey Federation rules, a goal won’t be counted “if the net has been displaced from its normal position, or the frame of the goal net is not completely flat on the ice.”

Russia’s goal was disallowed, and well, you know the rest. But here’s where things get ugly.

Not surprisingly, Russia claimed that U.S.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick knocked the net off on purpose. According to NHL senior writer Dan Rosen, Russian defenseman Slava Voynov told Russian media that he has come to learn that this is Quick’s style of play, and he does it all the time during regular-season play in the NHL.

So do you know the part of all of this that irritates me the most?

Voynov and Quick are teammates on the Los Angeles Kings.

Yup, you read correctly. Slava Voynov stands in front of Jonathan Quick’s net on a nightly basis to do all he can to stop the puck from reaching his goaltender. And Quick is the last line of defense when Voynov makes the occasional defensive mistake or turns the puck over.

Well, this just got awkward. I get rivalries. They make sports more interesting to watch and add to the high caliber of the game.

There’s nothing more exhilarating than witnessing teammates skate onto opposite sides of the faceoff circle as they each contend for the gold medal. And it’s usually the case that these rivalries result in gentle banter.

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However, Voynov’s insistence that Quick would purposefully dislodge the net in order to stymie Russia’s scoring chances says more about Voynov’s character than Quick’s.

Opposing sides or not, you don’t get to make an excuse for a loss by attacking the sportsmanship of your teammate.

When looking at the replay, there is no disputing that Quick was in fact the one to knock the net slightly loose. But what’s also clear is that he did so while stopping Russia’s Evgeni Malkin from scoring on a rebound.

There was a linesman standing on the left side of the goal, and it’s his job to see that the net was dislodged. You can break down the situation in a hundred different ways but at the end of the day, the call on the ice stands.

What Voynov seems to have forgotten is that he and Quick are only temporary opponents. The Winter Olympics last just over two weeks.

The NHL season still has about three months left, and that doesn’t include playoffs. After they’ve wrapped up in Sochi, Quick and Voynov return to the same locker room and don the jersey with the same logo on the front. Only now, there will be the gray cloud sitting over both of their heads.

Beyond the gentle teasing and taunting lies an accusation that Voynov can’t take back. You called your teammate a cheater.

I hope Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter has some group and trust building exercises up his sleeve. He’s going to need it.

Were Voynov’s comments going too far? What are your thoughts on the U.S.A. and Russian rivalry? Let Adee know what you think by emailing

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