Hockey is a big, big deal in Russia. The famed 1980 Miracle on Ice—where the United States upset the heavily favored U.S.S.R.—is emblematic of its importance. Like Canada, Russia has plenty of frozen land where hockey is the best/only option to play sports, and Russians take immense pride in the game. NHL superstars like Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk have left the league to go home and play in the Russian KHL. The league has fashioned itself as something of a competitor to the NHL, and it certainly has proven so when it comes to hoarding Russian talent. Some of the best Russian players in the world do not play in the NHL, which is to say that some of the best hockey players on Earth are not on NHL rosters.
Which is why this story about Putin corrupting the KHL is such a stark reminder of how far he will go to enforce his rule. Sure, he’s murdered political dissenters across the globe, but that’s par for the course for any despot. This ordeal is proof that Vladimir Putin fashions himself as something far closer to Kim Jong-Un than President Putin. This summary of the KHL season from Slava Malamud, a Russian sports writer, is completely, utterly, bonkers.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.