A sign of disrespect.
That’s how Team Canada forward Matt Duchene viewed the decision by the bulk of Team Russia’s players to skate off the ice before O Canada played following Team Canada’s 6-1 win over Russia in the IIHF world hockey championship final.
“I’ve lost in that tournament three times, and twice was to Russia. We stood out and listened to their anthem,” Duchene told Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday.
“We would never have dreamed of skating off the ice.”
After losing the gold medal game, most of the Russians retired to the dressing room before the ceremony had finished. Russian news agency TASS reported the Russians are facing sanctions for their actions.
“We will look into this question and we will get in touch with those in charge at the Russian Ice Hockey Federation,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement to TASS. “The IIHF has its own protocol and some sort of punishment will be handed down.”
Not every Russian bolted, however. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Viktor Tikhonov and Dmitry Kulikov were among the few who stuck around for O Canada.
“Obviously Ovechkin wanted to stay out, and that spoke a lot to us. We all appreciated that from him,” Duchene said.
The Colorado Avalanche star acknowledged that the medal ceremony was long, but stressed that the best part is hearing your national anthem, with the gold clinking on your chest.
“It was a lot of standing around for them, but there’s no way we would’ve skated off before hearing their anthem,” Duchene said. “It’s just a respect thing.”
Duchene spoke with teammate and Team Canada veteran Jason Spezza, and Spezza explained that he’s lost twice to Russia in the world championship gold medal game, in 2008 and 2009.
“The one time he was saying that [Alexander] Radulov in Halifax was skating right by them, jumping on the boards with the Russian flag. [Canadian] guys were real close to leaving the blueline and go take a run at him,” Duchene said.
“Over time, you gotta pay it back. You can’t celebrate like that when you win and not respect when you lose. That’s something as Canadians we have a good understanding of. Some of the Russians did; some of them didn’t.”
Duchene is only 24, but all he needs is a Stanley Cup to join the Triple Gold Club. Last season the Ontario native captured Olympic gold in Sochi under coach Mike Babcock — a man he figures will elevate the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“What a great organization the Leafs are, and getting Babs there is going to make them such a contender,” said Duchene, who wants to spend his entire career in Colorado. “They have so many great players, it’s going to be fun to watch a big market like that have a resurgence.”