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Author: Alexei YatsenkoDate: 12/06/2003
Nikolai Zherdev: Russian Media's Whipping Boy

Zherdev’s departure from CSKA to Columbus has become the top subject amongst Russian media. Everyone is trying to create material and make a name for themselves, using this escalating scandal. Those who write these articles aren’t very different in their language. ?he labels placed on the recent favorite player, are quite similar - deserter, coward, traitor. These “hard working” journalists don’t understand just one thing – that they later may have to answer for their “sensational” articles. The issue is that in every democratic state (and we seem to be counting ourselves as one) the resolution of any argument is decided in court. Only it has the power, after understanding the issues and weighing the arguments of all sides, to decide who is right and who is guilty and to what extent.

Really, how can it be determined whether Zherdev is a deserter or not, not knowing whether he took the oath of the Russian Army? If the young man is not in the lists of any military regiments of the Russian Ministry of Defense, then that’s the end of it! Besides this issue, it would also be helpful to study Zherdev’s contracts with CSKA and Columbus. None of this has been done yet.

So, Zherdev may only be critiqued using the established ethical norm, and even here everything is not black and white. If a young man, who reached the age of 18, has to serve – the he should serve. This is his duty before the state, and as a result before all of us. If Zherdev attempted to dodge this duty, then he should be punished, which is what the media appears to be pushing for. However, the law, from my perspective, is not only written for Nikolai. Examining the rosters of various clubs, I discovered no less then a hundred players ranging from 18 to 19, and that’s just in the Super League! How many more are skating in the lower leagues? Or are all of them already serving in the military? That’s strange, there doesn’t seem to be a post of “hockey player” in the guidelines of Russia’s ministry of defense. By the way, the members of Russia’s military conscripting services should investigate CSKA itself – Sidikov, Borisov, Kosmachev, Dubinin, Chernykh, Anshakov and many other hockey players – are all eligible for military service. How can they conduct their service in the ranks of CSKA, which is structurally no longer under the Russian military, or, how could the club’s roster boast foreign imports like Saflitski, Heida and Novotni? Are they then mercenaries? If so, then can tomorrow they be sent to Chechnya? Just try it....Let’s dig a bit deeper – five hockey players eligible for military service currently play for clubs in the QJMHL, three in the WHL, eight in the OHL, there are potential soldiers in the AHL as well. I deduct then they are probably fulfilling their duty to the Motherland in the Exclusive contingent of Russia’s military in North America? Why in this case, do Alexander Semin play for the Washington Capitals and Maxim Kondratiev for Toronto? They are supposed to be with their regiments! Tell me, finally, in which regiment did Ilya Kovalchuk serve, who just recently turned 20, and is playing in his third season in the NHL. No, my colleagues, the issue of army service has nothing to do here. This is something completely different. This has to do with CSKA’s ambitions. If Zherdev did break the law, it has to be proven. And in any case, it’s not right to make him the scapegoat!

- Alexei Yatsenko is a long time observer for Upper League's Kristal Elektrostal, Nikolai Zherdev's former hockey club of six years. (

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