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Hockey player Lukas Klok said the media in his country was helping to whip up animosity against all things Russian
Czech hockey star Lukas Klok has said he received threats in his homeland after playing for a Russian team, but has defended his former employers by saying he was “treated perfectly normally” during his time in Russia.
Klok, 27, played last season at KHL team Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, based in Tatarstan, but terminated his contract following the outbreak of the conflict with Ukraine.
The defenseman has since been snapped by NHL outfit the Arizona Coyotes on a one-year deal.
But despite his early exit from Russia, Klok refused to criticize the local population and said he had been treated well by his ex-employers, including after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine.
Klok told Czech outlet Sport.cz that he was firmly opposed to Moscow’s military action, but added he would “not condemn the Russians for the fact that the whole nation is bad. They treated me perfectly normally.”
“I had no problem with the management and the president of the club before it started (the conflict in Ukraine),” Klok said.
“And even then, they treated us foreigners completely normally and tried to calm us down when the airspace was closing, that they would get us across the border and guarantee us return home.
“I can’t say a single bad word about the Russians [at the hockey team] and their actions.
“They could have kept me there because of the contract in force, but we agreed on the terms of its termination. They accommodated me because they understood the situation as it was,” added Klok.
The Czech star – who featured for his country at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year – confirmed that he had received pressure from within his homeland to leave Russia, and was even subjected to threats.
“The pressure from the media on everything about Russia is there. Just look at how it is written here about the Slovaks who are now signing in the KHL, and how people react to it here. There are also those who react normally, but the vast majority negatively,” he said.
“On social media, people from anonymous accounts threatened me. It wasn’t pleasant to read, but I won’t do anything about it. We live in a democratic state, so let everyone write their opinion. The final decision is up to me anyway.”
Hockey federations in Latvia, Sweden and Finland have all said that any players who choose to sign deals with Russian KHL clubs will be banned from playing for their respective national teams in future.
Klok said that players should have the choice and that it depended on personal circumstances.
“Everyone has to know why and what they are going to the KHL for, and then they have to bear the consequences. But that doesn’t mean people should start threatening and condemning them,” he said.