Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Benevolent Belarussians?

With Canada securing top spot in their pool at the World Hockey Championships, there was a lot to be happy about with their win over Belarus. Canada should face a squad they can beat in the next round, and they won't meet up with the Russians unless both teams advance to the final. For Belarus, however, it was a different story with three of their players who seemingly had a long-running feud. With the Nashville Predators being eliminated, Belarus decided to add the Kostitsyn brothers to their roster which already featured Mikhail Grabovski. The same Mikhail Grabovski who has had a long and storied feud with his two fellow countrymen.

In all fairness, there has been hostility on both sides to make the Hatfields and the McCoys seem like a block party. Neither side has elaborated on where the hatred for the other side started, but it seems that there has been a general dislike for the other for some time.

So when Mikhail Grabovski was asked about the effort being put forth by the Kostitsyns in the World Championships this season, I was expecting Grabovski to at least utter a "no comment" if he was on his very best behavior. What reporters received from Grabovski left a few eyebrows raised.
"It's not a problem, the Kostitsyns. I think they helped when they came here. I don't want to say that when they came we stopped playing.

"That's just not right."
Is this the same Mikhail Grabovski who said that Sergei Kostitsyn was no longer Belarussian in 2009?
"I think he is not Belarusian now, he is French, because I never fight with Belarusian guys. I don't know why he wants to fight with me. If he wants to fight, we'll go in the street and, every minute of every day, I'll wait for him and we'll fight."
According to a report on February 5, 2009, Andrei Kostitsyn said the feud started because "[h]e talks too much in the Russian newspapers about me and my brother." If that's the case, I can see why the Kostitsyns may have a bit of anger towards Grabovski, but I'm not sure why they simply can't come to an agreement over speaking to reporters.

It seems, however, that Grabovski's tune has changed as he actually stuck up for his arch-nemeses in this year's World Championship. Of course, Sergei Kostitsyn doesn't really factor into the equation as often now that he's playing in Nashville, and having his brother join him on the Predators may actually allow this feud to simmer. Time heals all wounds, apparently.

Of course, the three Belarussians played together with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL and for a short time with the Canadiens, so it's not like these three players haven't known each other for while. They grew up together, they played in Belarus together, and they all made it to the NHL. There has been ample time to bury the hatchet, but Sergei Kostitsyn explained to Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov that he had nothing to say to Grabovski about his talking to reporters in Belarus.
Why would I ask him? It is pointless to ask. I have nothing to talk to him about."
Maybe Sergei Kostitsyn DOES have something to take to Grabovski about after he came to the defence of his two national teammates. If a hatchet was needed to be buried, it looks like Grabovski may have shoveled the first pile of dirt upon the axe in the hole in the ground.

One comment may not heal the wounds opened between these proud hockey players, but if they are looking to find some common ground, some kind words go a long, long way. They don't need to be best friends by any means, but co-existing as the biggest stars of the Belarussian national team is vital for this team to move forward from its fourteenth-place finish for the second year in a row.

Kind Kostitsyns? Gracious Grabovski? Cats and dogs living together? It can happen.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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