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FIDDLER'S FACTS: Rangers star scratched for political reasons

. - Contributed

If you are playing the NHL fantasy pools or wagering on hockey, you might want to take note that New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is absent from the lineup.

It is not because of COVID-19 or other injuries but because of “political pressure” launched by sources friendly to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It seems that ever since Panarin launched a heavy social media assault directed at Putin, called Freedom for Navalny, for the unjust jailing of Alexei Navalny that triggered the recent riots in Moscow and throughout Russia, Putin followers have fought back. 

Questionable allegations from dubious pro-Putin sources want to start an investigation over an alleged assault by Panarin on a woman 10 years ago when he was playing in Russia’s Kontinental league. Panarin’s former Russian teammates say they know nothing about this story, according to reliable newspaper reports.  

Russia is a dangerous place these days, and critics of Putin have a strange way of dying suddenly whether on Russian soil or elsewhere in the world. Putin critic and rival Boris Nemtsov was shot by unknown thugs in Moscow in 2015. Boris Berezovsky, another Putin rival, was murdered in 2013 in England after he started a Justice for Litvinenko Movement. On his deathbed, Alexander Litvinenko swore he was poisoned with polonium-210 by Russian agents sent by Putin who were found guilty in absentia. 

There are dozens of civil rights lawyers and writers that have paid the ultimate price for telling the truth about Putin and the corrupt government, most notably Anna Politkovskaya, whose book Putin’s Russia accused Putin of turning Russia into a police state. She was murdered in 2006 – shot in her apartment building in a contract killing. 

What the Canadian government should be doing is demanding the release of Navalny, who was poisoned and almost died. He was taken to a hospital in Germany and survived. Upon his return to Moscow, the Russia government convicted him of phony charges and sentenced him to 2.5 years in jail. 

Panarin has family in Russia and a return home may result in a fate similar to that Navalny. Is Panarin safe in New York? It will be very interesting to see what happens the next time the Rangers meet Washington, where Alexander Ovechkin is a big Putin supporter. 


The Charlottetown Islanders, the first-place club in the Quebec Major Hockey League at 20-4-0-0, travel to Sydney, N.S., today to tangle with the Cape Breton Eagles. While I like to think we have the best club in the Q, the fact remains that only one other Maritime team is above .500, Acadie-Bathurst (9-4-1). Meanwhile, eight Quebec-based teams are above the same mark.  

The Islanders have the three players with the most points in the league and that has never happened before. They are Cedric Desruisseaux (28-21, 49), Thomas Casey (21-25, 46) and Lukas Cormier (11-20, 31), the highest-scoring defenceman and tied with forward Shawn Element for third overall. Also, goaltender Colten Ellis has a sparkling goals-against average of 1.82, by far the division’s best. 

In some ways, the Islanders are like the Toronto Maple Leafs in that they are the best of their division? Are the Islanders and Leafs as good as their records indicate? 

That is a question that will get answered sometime down the road, but I do know winning breeds confidence, and that is key to overall success. 

Julian out, Dom in

The Montreal Canadiens axed head coach Claude Julian a few days ago but it was no great surprise after losing twice to Ottawa. Carey Price is no longer a great goalie. In fact, he’s been awful and a major reason why the Habs have faded after a fast start. Dominique Ducharme, who was the head coach when Halifax won the 2013 Memorial Cup, has been named interim coach.

Some respondents to the Montreal Gazette story suggested bringing in Gerard (Turk) Gallant as bench boss. It sounds interesting. More on this next week.  

Winter parking ban

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I heard this amusing story from one of the city workers. Frank Lewis, the former lieutenant-governor, was playing cards in Charlottetown earlier this week and must have forgotten he no longer has a driver. Like the rest of us, he must drive his own vehicle. The city crew, trying to keep the streets clear of snow, were blocked by a truck and had it towed. Guess who owned the truck.


The race game lost another regular fan this week with the passing of Wayne Darte, a guy that I grew up with in Charlottetown. We went to Queen Square School together when we were kids and stayed friends ever since. He usually travelled with John Duffy, Doug MacGregor and was a frequent resident in the simulcast parlor, a great guy. My condolences to partner Anne Marie Ellis, sister Gloria MacKinnon and brother John Darte. 

Harness racing 

No live racing here in the Maritimes but plenty of racing up-country.  

At the Meadows, The Amazing Sandy was second choice at the windows but faded late, finishing seventh in 1:54 in a $22,500 late-closing final.

At Mohawk, Major Bean, owned by Carl Jamieson and some of the boys in the Red Shores simulcast room, qualified sharply in 1:56. This sophomore has high speed and could be special.

He is in to go this week in a $16,000 conditioned pace from the rail.

Also at The Hawk, So much More, the Tom and Doug MacPhee bred mare, was second by a neck in the $26,000 top class a week ago. At the same track, Red Dirt Star was a close fourth in 1:56:2 in a $20,000 overnight pace for driver Jody Jamieson.

Mr Kelly was third in a 1:54:2 qualifier and is in to go tonight from Post 4 in a $20,000 with James MacDonald in the bike.  

At Yonkers, The Rev was third in 1:54:3 for driver George Brennan and owners Jeff and Bob Skinner of Halifax. Also at New York, former Maritime stake champ Getti Messi was fourth Wednesday in 1:57:3 in a $11,000 trot.

Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at [email protected].


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