By Allan Muir
With training camps opening around the league yesterday, it was only a matter of time before reporters tracked down the NHL’s Russian players and asked for a take on the gay rights controversy stalking the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, arguably the biggest star who is not yet on the record, managed to skirt the issue, saying he didn’t feel comfortable discussing the topic because English isn’t his primary language.
It made for a lousy dodge. After all, it doesn’t take a nuanced understanding to say “Yes, I’m in favor” or “I’m opposed.”
He did, however, offer a response when a reporter asked if he would have a problem playing with a gay teammate.
“No, no problem,” he said.
So maybe it wasn’t a dodge so much as a canny play. Malkin avoided offering an answer to the tough question that would have offended either his homeland or his adopted home, and instead threw out a bone to tolerance. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the playbook moving forward, at least for the Russians playing in North America.