As you might know, on March 10th, 2016, the management of the Ottawa Senators hockey club announced cancellation of the Russian Heritage Night previously scheduled for the March 22 game against the Washington Capitals.
The Russian Congress of Canada received numerous complaints from the fans in our community as well as many Canadians who expressed their outrage over such indicative action. As a follow- up, we wrote a letter to the Ottawa Senators, where on behalf of the Canadian fans we expressed our opinion and regret over the situation. We offer you here the original of this letter:
“The Russian Congress of Canada on behalf of the Russian-Canadian community is extremely concerned about the last moment decision of Ottawa Senators management to cancel the Russian Heritage Night scheduled for March 22 when the game between Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals took place.
As you know, many Russian fans were enticed to the hockey game not least by this event. The Russian Heritage Night was cancelled without explanation and prior notice of cancellation to the fans. No statements have been made about the ticket returns or refunds due as a result of the cancellation of the event. We don’t know the motivation behind this cancellation, but we feel that disrespect for the heritage of the Russian-speaking Canadian fans and the Russian hockey stars playing for the National Hockey League is happening in Canada, a country proud of its tolerance and equality. Our fans were looking forward to celebrating the huge contribution of Russian players to hockey in North America. Our compatriots Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov have earned the privilege to be part of NHL with their talent and hard work.
We are confident that most Canadians share our opinion and would not want the league to seem ungrateful to those who made contributions to the glory of North American hockey. Such attitude towards the Russian hockey players and Russian community at large can’t help but cause concern. Unfortunately, Russian-speaking Canadians have repeatedly been censored and persecuted by certain chauvinistic elements. This unacceptable practice must be decisively brought to an end and made public to Canadian society.
The Russian Congress of Canada, the Russian community and all concerned citizens of Canada are hopeful that this incident will be thoroughly investigated and the reasons for the cancellation of the event publicly announced. We would also be grateful for information on when the administration of the Ottawa Senators intends to organize a Russian Heritage Night in place of the cancelled one. We thank you in advance for your reply to our letter.”
We give credit to Peter O’Leary, the Vice President of Ticketing of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, who clarified the situation for us. According to Peter O’Leary, the Russian Heritage Night was not a planned event, but a “promotional code to purchase discounted tickets”. While we still have not fully understood the reason behind the cancellation, we are content that Mr. O’Leary admitted that it was a poor choice of words. We also found out from this conversation that other ethnic communities in Canada had used this opportunity to celebrate their cultural traditions along the sports events; on many occasions the embassies’ representatives became part of the events. Having said that, we hope that our fans will have another opportunity to organize a successful Russian Heritage Night in the future.
The Russian Congress of Canada thanks all those who did not remain indifferent to this situation. We hope that together we will stand guard to any attempts to politicize Canada’s favourite sport, continue to be loyal fans of our favourite teams, and support Russian players on contract with various North American hockey teams.