Russian players in the National Hockey League have kept quiet about Russia’s invasion Ukraine. This is largely because they fear possible fallout at home.

Only two Russian-born NHL players, Alex Ovechkin from Washington and Nikita Zadorov, a Calgary defenseman, have spoken out about the war. Given the Russian threats to players and their families, this list is unlikely to increase.

Brian MacLellan is the Capitals’ general manager. They have Ovechkin and three other Russians on the roster. They are under a lot pressure to express their political views. They’re trying to find the right balance between how they live and what their political views are, as well as the possible consequences for their families back home. These guys are in a very difficult position.

Several NHLPA-certified Russian agents spoke to The Associated Press about the difficulties faced by their clients. However, they refused to discuss the details as it could have negative consequences. Players were told not to discuss Ukraine due to the political climate in Russia, where it is being considered a crime to distribute fake news about the government’s military operations in Ukraine.

Agent Dan Milstein represents over a dozen Russian- and Belarusian NHL players, including the defending champion Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kuchrov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. According to him, he received threats via email and social media since telling ESPN that many of his clients are suffering harassment.

Milstein, who was born and raised in Kyiv, said, “This is only me, the Ukrainian agent getting this.” Milstein fled Ukraine during the Soviet Union’s collapse as a political refugee. It has been hard for some (players). Some men find refuge in playing on the ice. … Imagine stepping on the ice, thinking your wife and newborn child are unprotected.

Ovechkin’s children, wife and parents are all in Russia. Evgeni Malkin, a longtime rival from Pittsburgh, is also there.

Milstein expressed gratitude for the efforts made by the league, players’ union and teams, as well as the police departments. The NHL stated earlier this week that it was “concerned about well-being players from Russia who play in NHL on behalf their NHL clubs and not on Russia’s behalf.” We are sorry for their suffering.

A spokesman for the NHL stated that the league would stand by that statement and not elaborate. The NHLPA responded to our inquiry by saying that it was in contact with the league about security measures at the team and league levels.

Ovechkin is a well-known supporter Vladimir Putin and made an appeal for peace. Zadorov posted on Instagram the messages “NO WAR!” and “STOP IT! There has been a lot of feedback. Ovechkin was criticised for not condemning actions of the Russian president he once campaigned for as part the “Putin Team,” while Zadorov may be banned from playing for his country’s national team.

Artemi Panarin from the New York Rangers, the NHL’s only Russian player, has deleted all elements of his Instagram criticism and made it private.

The AP spoke with agents who said that most threats have been made via social media. They do not believe Russian players in North America face greater danger than the rest of the population. Instead, many emphasized the danger for players’ family members and friends back home if they speak out against war.

Milstein stated that “it is certainly a concern because of it’s a catch-22.” “Hockey players have their families back home. They care about both sides of the sea.”

Most NHL players were advised to refrain from discussing the invasion of Ukraine. Ovechkin is a unique case, given his status as one of Russia’s most popular and influential athletes. He said in public comments that he would not allow any more war. It doesn’t matter who is involved in the war: Russia, Ukraine or other countries. We live in a world where peace is essential.

MacLellan stated that Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov have the Capitals’ support.

MacLellan stated that they have to balance a lot of things. “I think it’s difficult for them to find their place in the two situations, and what they can and can’t say. It’s also hard for them understand what their true feelings and thoughts are.”