NHL agent says Russian players are facing harassment and death threats

Dan Milstein, player agent for multiple NHL stars including Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy, says some of his Russian-born clients have been on the receiving end of discrimination and harassment following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Milstein, a native Ukrainian who is now an American citizen and represents approximately 75 percent of the Russian and Belarusian players in the league, is stunned by some words coming from fans.

“The discrimination and racism these Russian and Belarusian players are facing right now is remarkable,” Milstein told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. “We’re being set back 30 years. I have players calling me, parents calling me. They’re concerned whether they’ll be able to play, whether they’ll be safe.”

According to the agent, one specific player was targeted and harassed by someone on the street.

“He was yelled at to, ‘Get back to your country,’ and was called a Nazi and other words,” Milstein said.

“Clients are being called Nazis. People are wishing that they are dead. These are human beings. These are hockey players. These are guys contributing to our society, paying millions of dollars in taxes to support the US and Canada, and doing all kinds of charity work back home. Stop looking at them as aggressors. Stop being racist,” he added.

“My clients aren’t as nervous for themselves. But when they are on the road, and they have a wife and a newborn child at home that are alone, there are major concerns.”

On Monday, the NHL released a statement condemning Russia’s actions and announcing that the league was immediately suspending operations with all Russian business partners, as well as shuttering any digital content and social media coverage for the country.

NHL agent Dan Milstein says some of his Russian-born clients have been on the receiving end of discrimination and harassment following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.  (Getty)

NHL agent Dan Milstein says some of his Russian-born clients have been on the receiving end of discrimination and harassment following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. (Getty)

Following this and initial concern about player safety, the league has reportedly increased security.

The current crop of Russian players are getting taken care of, but prospects and future stars are potentially being left out in the cold. According to Milstein, the CHL is considering banning Russian and Belarusian players from the upcoming import draft, though an official decision has yet to been made.

The CHL did make a statement Wednesday condemning Russia’s actions against Ukraine and announcing the cancellation of the annual Canada-Russia series, but they did not give any specifics for their upcoming import draft, just that the format will be decided on at a later date.

But regardless of junior entry drafts, Milstein is afraid that his 22 clients that are eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft will see their stock fall in the coming weeks.

“Some hockey executives have already expressed concern in the upcoming draft whether those players will ever be able to come out [of Russia] and play, and some of them are concerned about the public opinion when certain players are drafted,” Milstein said. “I try to understand the teams, and of course public opinion matters, but this is pure discrimination. And these are young men’s lives we’re talking about. Innocent young men who are now being punished.

“I have several owners and general managers in those leagues telling me they disagree with it, but they are also telling me they can’t say this publicly because of the fear of public opinion.”

Whether it’s decreasing draft stock or harassment in North America, Milstein knows for certain that his clients cannot express themselves and their thoughts openly.

“While some of my clients can speak freely in the safety of being in North America, their family could be scrutinized back home and anything could happen,” Milstein said.

“I’m a proud American, so I ask let’s come together united. My own childhood home is being bombed as I speak to my friends back home. I haven’t slept in six days because this is such a difficult time. But people are picking on the wrong crowd. I can speak on behalf of my clients: They want world peace like everybody else. They’re not being treated like that.”

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