17 May 2010 Smokin’ Semin Has Team Russia Under Fire

Alexander Semin

The Russian press caught Caps LW Alexander Semin enjoying a smoke.

The Russian tabloids went crazy this week after several members of the Russian national hockey team were captured on film smoking outside a restaurant in Germany at the World Championships – the most familiar being Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals.  Other “guilty” parties shown in the video are Ilya Nikulin, whose rights belong to the Atlanta Thrashers, and 2002 NHL draftees Sergei Mozyakin (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Vitaly Atyushov (Ottawa Senators).  Late in the video one can also see soon-to-be UFA Ilya Kovalchuk hanging out with the naughty smokers and acting a little “off” while being escorted into a waiting car.

It seems ironic that in a country where just about everyone smokes that something like this would spark such controversy and outrage.  Or not.

During Soviet times, Russia took its athletes’ development very seriously.  Hockey players were closely monitored and were strictly forbidden from smoking and drinking.   Athletes were highly revered and their jobs were taken very seriously.  They were seen as more than just mere mortals, having an amazing ability and will to resist outside distractions.  After all, they were living representations of the Soviet ideal. Most of the players from that era still maintain a strict policy of abstinence when it comes to tobacco and alcohol.

Of course, there are always the exceptions.  We’ve all heard the stories about Sergei Zubov smoking in the showers between periods or Nikolai Khabibulin having a clause written in his contract allowing him to smoke, but the majority of the old-school players didn’t and still don’t.

Alexander Semin, left, lights up with his Russian teammates.

Yet in the new Russia things are different.  While players are still closely watched by their teams, attitudes definitely seem to have relaxed in many areas.  Smoking, it turns out, is one of them.  A current KHL player told us it’s the nature of being a hockey player:  You either smoke or dip (chewing tobacco).  In Russia, smoking is definitely the mode of choice.  Still, hockey is one of the most popular sports in Russia, with world competitions being big news.  So much so that in response to the media frenzy, the team has decided to boycott the press, a move which, of course, has created even more controversy in the Motherland.

Yet to be fair, we have to mention that smoking and chewing is also part of the scene in the NHL, the minor leagues and college in North America.  Don’t let the media fool you.  It may be more hidden these days, but believe me, it’s quite pervasive –- especially chewing tobacco — at just about every level.  Even superstar Alex Ovechkin has been known to indulge in a little bit of snuff.

While the Russian population is shocked, North American fans seem to be saying “big deal” (although I wonder what the reaction in Canada would be if, say, Sidney Crosby was caught doing either). Here, we have to shake our heads at the stupidity, naivete or audacity of these players: Standing outside a restaurant smoking in full view of the public practically begging someone to bust them; and then give a little chuckle when they boycott the media for daring to report it when someone catches them red handed.

Poll-o-Rama: What Do You Think?

Talk Back!
What do you think? Much ado about nothing? Or something worth talking about? Leave a comment and tell us what YOU think!

Photos: From LifeSports.ru.

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15 Responses

  1. 1

    LOL. The whole thing is ridiculous. The smoking, the hubbub, the media freeze out. Reminds me of the Canadiens stories a few years ago about how they were all partying too much.

  2. 2

    I’m always shocked to hear of hockey players smoking. I don’t really give a shit about the social implications, I’m just always surprised that they would do something that would negatively impact their lung capacity. Seems they would need squeaky clean and healthy lungs to power up and down the ice every night.

  3. 3

    It’s not just their lungs either. Recent studies have shown that smoking prevents injury healing. Broken bones, torn soft tissue, etc., all show delayed healing due to the effects of nicotine due to the restriction of blood to the tissues. I would think that would be even more of an issue. Hurt your back, Sasha, and you might want to think about if you want to heal in 4 weeks as opposed to 6.

  4. 4
    Ally P. 

    What Virginia and Rckymnthigh said. Personally I find men smoking very unattractive (unless we’re talking Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca…) but that’s beside the point here. I would be peeved to see a player on my team out smoking because of how it could affect his on-ice performance.

  5. 5

    Funny stuff, especially boycotting the press.

    Also funny/ironic that smoking is on the way out in North America (I know there are athletes who smoke, but compared to the way it USED to be? No comparison.) among athletes yet growing in popularity in Russia. As far as knowing how much it’s going to hurt you – I don’t think we’re talking about the smartest guys in the world here.

  6. 6

    Oh the joys of being young and dumb! I am amazed they were surprised that someone recognized them and took their pictures — then tried to profit from it. I thought the media training these guys go through would have at least had them doing whatever it is they do behind closed doors — behind closed doors.

    But what’s the big deal really?

  7. 7

    Another reason why Zubov was better off over here. He was the only person allowed to smoke in the new arena. lol!
    Obviously smoking non-stop never hurt him as if he had chosen to play in the NHL, still would have been top 20 this last season for defensement. People need to leave the athletes alone and take care of their own lives. An athlete is NOT your child’s hero. YOU should be!

  8. 8

    LOL. OMG.

  9. 9

    Is it just me or are you amazed at how the Russians seemed to play “How many intoxicated Russian Hockey Players can we fit in this tiny European car?” There had to be 6 people in that thing!

    The hubbub about this really is absurd, but then again, most media frenzy’s are in fact, over something rather absurd and trivial.

    I don’t condone them smoking for the obvious reasons pointed out in other comments concerning health issues, etc… one smoke every now and then won’t kill them. We don’t know how often they do it, and neither does the Russian media. Still though, that said, they shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing.

  10. 10

    Theo Fleury smoked , didn’t slow him down the year he got fifty goals.

  11. 11

    Great one. Thanks and favorited.

  12. 12
    stack em up 

    umm every hockey team in canada has players who chew.. from pee-wee to midget, jr.b,jr.a and major junior. Every team has chewers. i am canadian and if you told me crosby chewed i wouldnt be surprised

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