Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov forced by Russia to enlist in army, reports say

A professional hockey player from Russia, who signed a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers last month, has been detained in his home country and forced to enlist in the Russian military, multiple reports showed Friday.

Ivan Fedotov, who plays goalkeeper, was a late-round draft pick of the Flyers in 2015. On May 7, the team announced that Fedotov, now 25 years old, had signed a one-year deal with the Flyers, and there has been speculation since then. he competes for the backup goalkeeping lane behind starter Carter Hart.

One of the first international reports to emerge of Fedotov’s arrest was that he was being held in St. Petersburg on charges of “evading the Russian army.” On Friday afternoon, several reports stated that Fedotov had been taken to an army recruiting center and forced to enlist. The Russian-language media site Fontanka.ru is cited as the source of the information.

The Russian army invaded Ukraine in late February and a bloody conflict has been raging ever since.

On Friday afternoon, Flyers CEO Chuck Fletcher released a brief statement about Fedotov: “We are aware of the reports and are investigating the situation. We have no further comment at this time.”

Based on information from Fontanka.ru, Yahoo News reported that Fedotov was met by Russian officials as he left an ice arena in St. Petersburg and “invited” to go to the military service office. Newsweek wrote that the Russian military prosecutor’s office told Fontanka.ru that “there are ample reasons to consider Fedotov an army evader.”

Fedotov has been playing professionally in his home country since 2014 and in 2022 was part of the Russian Olympic Committee team that won the silver medal at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

He signed an entry-level one-year contract with the Flyers on May 7 for $925,000 after being first drafted by Philadelphia in 2015. He was their seventh-round pick and 188th pick overall.

The goalkeeper is also accused of unlawfully terminating his contract with HC CSKA, a professional hockey team based in Moscow, after announcing in an interview in April that he was leaving for the Flyers.

Since the club is run by the Russian Defense Ministry, he was technically already considered conscript, Fontanka.ru reports.

Fedotov helped CSKA win the KHL’s Gargarin Cup last season and won the league’s best goalkeeper award. He posted a save percentage of .919 and conceded exactly 2 goals per game. He increased his save percentage to 0.937 during the playoffs and 0.943 during his Olympic run.

Getting Fedotov out of Russia and into Philadelphia got more complicated after the invasion of Ukraine, said Flyers’ GM Fletcher.

“But we still expect to be able to get him the right paperwork and have him here for next season,” he said in May.

Fletcher was optimistic that Fedotov would be the backup goalkeeper for starter Carter Hart.

“In terms of abilities, we think he’s ready to challenge for an important role,” Fletcher said. “He’s right at that age what he’s invested his time in. He’s developed and he’s ready to go.”

But playing in the NHL would still be a big adjustment.

“In the NHL, there’s a lot more traffic on the net. A lot more pucks are thrown at the net and the net blocked,” Fletcher said. “There are definitely things goalkeepers have to adapt to and some do it faster than others.”

Fedotov is 6-foot-8 and 203 pounds. He considers St. Petersburg to be his hometown, but Fedotov was born in Finland near the Russian border and has Finnish maternal ancestry.

Prior to the Russia-Ukraine war, many Russian NHL players returned home in the off-season, but amid concerns that they would not be able to return to the US or Canada because of the war, many stayed in North America this summer. reported the Athletic.

The conflict has put the NHL in a difficult position. Although the league condemned the invasion, it has not ruled out Russian players and does not want them to feel uncomfortable in North America or put in positions where their families could be in danger, the Athletic said.

The NHL has made a rule that prohibits NHL players from traveling to Russia with the Stanley Cup to celebrate.

Although the circumstances are very different, Fedotov is the second athlete to be affiliated with an American professional sports competition to be held in Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for more than four months.

Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, also played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia for many years during the WNBA offseason. She was arrested after flying from New York to Russia, days before the Russian army invaded Ukraine. Russian authorities have charged her with drug smuggling, claiming that Griner had two cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage when she arrived at an airport near Moscow.

Griner was in a Russian courtroom Friday. US officials believe the Putin regime ordered her arrest to use her as a bargaining chip — a practice known as “hostage diplomacy.”