Return of NHL star Panarin unclear after assault allegations in Russia
The New York Rangers have reportedly insisted that there was no set timetable for the return of star player Artemi Panarin after taking time out following allegations of assault by one of his former coaches in Russia.
Andrei Nazarov, Panarin’s former Continental Hockey League coach, told Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya that the player attacked an 18-year-old woman in Latvia in 2011.
Nazarov said Panarin, a finalist for the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Most Valuable Player award last season, knocked the woman to the ground with “several powerful punches.”
Panarin denies the allegations, which some say are linked to his public support for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his open criticism of the government under Vladimir Putin.
Nazarov criticized Panarin, who has played in the NHL since 2015, for his beliefs in Putin.
In a statement, the New York Rangers dismissed the report as a “fabricated story,” while skepticism over the allegations appears to have increased in Russia.
Latvian police reportedly said they had no knowledge of the alleged incident and that there was little evidence to support Nazarov’s claims.
It’s still unclear when Panarin, who leads Rangers with 18 points from five goals and 13 assists this season, will return to action.
The situation could also affect Panarin’s participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, where Russia will compete as “ROC” due to sanctions imposed on the country due to the state-sponsored doping scandal.
“Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies all allegations in this fabricated story,” the Rangers said in a statement.
“This is clearly an intimidating tactic used against him for openly speaking out about recent political events.
“Artemi is obviously shaken and worried and will take time for the team.
“The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unsubstantiated allegations.”