Ivan Fedotov, who was reportedly picked up by law enforcement authorities in Russia last week before he moved to the United States, is now at a remote military base in northern Russia, a Philadelphia agent said Tuesday.
The agent, JP Barry, spoke with the Associated Press amid speculation about Fedotov’s well-being. The situation has raised new concerns about whether Russian players will be willing or able to join the National Hockey League teams that are recruiting them this week as the war in Ukraine continues.
The 25-year-old Fedotov is considered one of the best keepers in the world outside of the NHL, and the Flyers expect him to compete for a place on their roster next season. He won the silver medal as a goalkeeper for the Russians at the Beijing Olympics in February and led CSKA Moscow to the Gagarin Cup as the KHL champion.
He was a seventh-round pick for the Flyers in 2015 but has since played in Russia, with CSKA retaining their rights. The NHL and KHL do not have a player transfer agreement and Fedotov was eligible to sign with Philadelphia in May only because he did not have an existing contract in Russia for next season.
CSKA, whose name translates to “Central Army Sports Club,” was founded as the Soviet Army’s hockey team in 1946 and still enjoys traditional ties to the military.
The first sign that something was wrong came to Fedotov on Friday. Russian media said he was arrested by law enforcement outside a hockey rink in his home city of St Petersburg, where he was filming a documentary with a TV crew, and taken to a military recruitment center. Local news website Fontanka reported that he is accused of evading the compulsory military service required of the Russian men.
Alexei Ponomariov, a lawyer representing Fedotov, told RIA Novosti news agency on Saturday that Fedotov had been taken to a military hospital with what appeared to be gastritis from stress. Ponomariov said he and Fedotov’s relatives were not allowed to visit.
The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented on Fedotov’s website. On Monday, the Russian newspaper Sport Express published what it said were pictures showing Fedotov at a military base in Severodvinsk, a naval city with shipyards on Russia’s northern coast, although there are conflicting reports about his exact whereabouts.
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“We have a draft in line with the law, so any emotional comments would be absolutely inappropriate,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday when asked about Fedotov’s case. “There are certain reasons for deferment and different ways of performing military service for athletes.”
Russia was aiming to enlist more than 130,000 men for a year of military service this spring. The law allows for a 21-month alternative civilian service in facilities such as hospitals for those who oppose military service, but requests are often ignored. In theory, Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 can be conscripted, although some never serve at all.
Russians often seek to avoid or delay drafting with medical or educational waivers, and athletes are no different. Some arrange to enroll with universities in distance learning programs for years while they continue their sports career.
The Army also has special units for elite level athletes who can continue to compete while on duty. The Department of Defense has boasted of several military-ranked athletes who compete in the recent Olympics in sports ranging from judo to skiing.
Chuck Fletcher, general manager of the NHL and Flyers, said the team is aware and is investigating. As recently as last week, Fletcher said he expects Fedotov to compete for a place on the roster next season.
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