Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to be among the people representing his country when Philadelphia Flyers alumni head to the Eurasian country for a series of hockey matches later this month.
Former Flyers defenseman Joe Watson said Putin has expressed a desire to play, though it's unclear if his schedule will allow it.
"I don’t know about that," Watson said, per Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post. "He’ll have to earn it from us as far as we’re concerned. We may be stuck in Siberia, but what the hell? We’ll have a good time. They never release Putin’s schedule until 24 hours before because of security reasons, so Putin, if he’s around, he wants to play the game against us."
Watson has been attempting to organize a game in Russia with Flyers alumni since last year. He said he had trouble finding former players willing to go to Russia given the current political climate. U.S. intelligence has claimed Russian hacks impacted November's presidential election, and Putin's relationship with President Donald Trump has drawn national scrutiny in recent months.
The Flyers alumni team will have just nine former NHLers going from the United States to Russia. The remainder of the roster is comprised of Watson associates and some former players who reside in Russia.
"Oh I think it had to do with politics," Watson said. "Some of our guys said, ‘They’ve got bad gas in their planes and their engines go down.’ I said, ‘Well, I never thought of that before,’ but we’re flying Aeroflot directly from Kennedy to Moscow, so I think we’ll be fine."
Current Flyers winger Jakub Voracek said he does not believe Putin would pose any threat to U.S. citizens making the trip.
"This isn’t World War II," Voracek said. "With the weapons and the armies that countries like the U.S. and China and Russia can use are so advanced, it could literally (screw) up the whole world. It would be the end. It would be a crisis. Is he dangerous? Who is dangerous? You can’t be dangerous anymore. You have some power, sure, but you can’t do stuff that maybe sometimes you want to do because it would end the world. I’m sure he knows that and everybody knows that. Of course we have to battle against ISIS and those guys, but to count him as a dangerous guy? I don’t think so."
In 1976, Russian national players traveled to Philadelphia for a matchup against the Flyers. Philadelphia won the game 4-1.