Capitals condemn invasion of Ukraine, express support for Russian players

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates with center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) after Ovechkin scored against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals hockey playoff series Sunday, May 13, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. The Capitals won the game 6-2. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

The Washington Capitals joined the NHL in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in a statement the team released on Tuesday.

The Capitals also said they are standing in full support of their Russian players and families overseas as "they have been put in a difficult position."

Washington opens a three-game road trip in Western Canada against the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. All three teams have expressed their support for Ukraine, with the Oilers' helmets bearing stickers of Ukraine's flag and a men's choir sang both the Ukrainian anthem and "O Canada" before a game against Montreal at Rogers Place.

A Ukrainian folk ensemble will perform at Rogers during Wednesday's game against the Capitals "to share Ukrainian culture with Oilers fans and help sing the national anthems," the Oilers said.

No pro-Ukrainian elements are planned for the Flames' home game against the Capitals on Tuesday, however, after having an anthem singer for Monday's game against the Oilers.

Nearly 370,000 Albertans are of Ukrainian origin, according to a 2016 Statistics Canada census, which is the second-largest among Canada's provinces and territories.

In his first comment after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin, one of the most famous citizens of the Russian Federation, made a call for peace.

"Please, no more war. It doesn't matter who is in the war — Russia, Ukraine, different countries — I think we live in a world, like, we have to live in peace and a great world," Ovechkin said.

The 36-year-old described the situation as "scary moments" and said he doesn't know yet whether his family – including his parents, wife and young son – will remain in Russia.

Ovechkin has openly shown support for Putin in the past, including on social media – where he has a photo of himself with the Russian president as his profile picture. Ovechkin was asked about that relationship saying "it's a hard situation for both sides."

"Well, he is my president. But how I said, I am not in politics. I am an athlete and you know, how I said, I hope everything is going to be done soon," Ovechkin said. "Everything I hope is going to end. I'm not in control of this situation."

A handful of demonstrators stood outside an entrance with a Ukrainian flag and a sign reading, “Ovechkin supports Putin,” while another from New Jersey held up a sign during warmups referencing the long connection between the Capitals captain and the Russian president.

The fan, who identified himself as Roman and said he was from Ukraine and currently lives in New Jersey, caught the attention of Kuznetsov, who appeared to be yelling toward him from the ice. A day after Capital One Arena clarified its policy that political signs are not allowed but flags can be brought in as long as they are not on sticks or poles, he was asked by security to put his poster away but did not have it confiscated.

--With files from the Canadian Press and Associated Press.

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