Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines Wednesday when he commented on President Trump’s surprise firing of FBI Director James B. Comey the night before. A CBS News reporter asked him how the firing will affect U.S.-Russian relations. He told her that the question was “funny” before answering, “We have nothing to do with it.”
What made Putin’s response go viral, however, was where he answered the question — and what he was wearing.
“You see, I am going to play hockey,” said Putin, 64. “I have hockey plans.”
Indeed he did. After dodging a question of international importance, Putin made his way through the tunnel of the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia, to take part in an exhibition match to promote a league he recently created, the Night Hockey League. It didn’t start well for him, however; he fell shortly after face off.
Things got a little better later on, but despite playing alongside a few Olympic champions and former NHL greats such as Vyacheslav Fetisov and Pavel Bure, the play was, well, rather tepid.
But who is really going to have the guts to check Putin, who — save for a four-year respite when he consolidated power under the guise of prime minister — has ruled Russia for most of the last two decades?
This isn’t Putin’s first ice time as Russia’s president. He’s played in more than a handful of exhibition games, including one in 2015 that saw him score, um, eight goals. No surprise, perhaps, his team trounced its opponent, 18-6.
Putin counts himself a fan of the sport off the ice, as well. He’s become particularly close to Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who regularly heaps praise on him via social media.
In October, Ovechkin posted a picture of himself with Putin and wished a “great and long” life for the president’s 64th birthday on Instagram.
In another instance, Ovechkin regrammed a photo of the president with the caption, “The motherland is waiting.” And he once took a picture of himself in front of a television on which Putin was speaking, captioning it, “Our president!!!!!”
Ovechkin and other top Russian hockey players have reasons other than politics to admire their leader: Every member of the country’s 2014 world championship team received a Mercedes-Benz at his request, according to state-owned media outlet Russia Today.