Russian NHL star Ovechkin pleads 'Please, no more war'

Alex Ovechkin (AFP)

National Hockey League star Alex Ovechkin, among the highest-profile Russian athletes in American sports, issued a plea for peace Friday in his first comments regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The 36-year-old left wing and captain for the Washington Capitals spoke after a practice session in Philadelphia about the ongoing conflict and his hopes for a quick end to the fighting.

"Please, no more war," Ovechkin said. "It doesn't matter who is in the war -- Russia, Ukraine, different countries -- I think we have to live in peace and a great world."

Ovechkin -- whose parents, wife and children are in Russia -- led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title in 2018 and has been the NHL's season leading goal scorer a record nine times.

Ovechkin has been a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the military onslaught across Ukrainian borders.

"It's a hard situation," Ovechkin said. "I have family back in Russia and it is scary moments. But we can't do anything. We just hope it going to be end soon and everything is going to be all right."

Asked if his support for Putin was as strong in the wake of the invasion, Ovechkin replied, "Well, he is my president. But how I said, I am not in politics. I am an athlete and I hope everything is going to be done soon."

Ovechkin has intently watched news coverage of the fighting in Ukraine and the repercussions.

"I have my family over there and of course I pay attention to what's happening," he said. "I don't want to see nobody get hurt, nobody get killed.

"I'm Russian. It's something I can't control. It's not in my hands. I hope it's going to end soon."

Asked if his family would remain in Russia, Ovechkin said, "It's a hard question because it just happened a couple days ago. We'll see what's going to happen."

Ovechkin, a three-time winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player, is in his 17th NHL campaign, all spent in Washington.

He is chasing down one of the greatest records in North American sport, the NHL all-time goal scoring record of 894 owned by Canadian legend Wayne Gretzky.

Ovechkin scored his 762nd career goal Thursday in a loss at the New York Rangers, putting him four behind Czech star Jaromir Jagr for third on the all-time NHL list.

Ovechkin has 32 goals and 31 assists in 51 games this season for the Capitals, who ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference at 28-16 with nine overtime losses.