Former Blue Jacket Artemi Panarin criticizes Vladimir Putin

Andy Downing
FILE - In this March 20, 2018, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin (9) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York.

Forward Artemi Panarin, who left the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this summer to sign with the New York Rangers in free agency, is continuing to make news off the ice.

On Thursday, an interview posted and was later shared via Deadspin in which Panarin spoke critically of Russian president Vladimir Putin, making him the most high-profile Russian athlete to take such a stance.

The nearly hour-long interview was conducted in Russian but translated by Slava Malamud of

Here are a handful of the more interesting/relevant passages (though do visit the site to read the complete excerpts):

On why he formerly expressed pride in Putin

"Because I was never really interested in politics. Never read the news. I was thoroughly focused on hockey and my progress… Besides, it’s not like I crossed the [American] border and got enlightened right away. It took me something like two years before I thought, 'Something is wrong [in Russia].'"

How his opinion started to change

"By watching Ekho Moskvy, Dozhd and Navalny [opposition channels]. I like it better than our [state-owned] Channel One. I just understood what type of horror is going on here. It’s enough for a person to just see the two sides and he will understand everything. You don’t even need to be super smart, just be open to another opinion, that’s all."

What he now thinks of Putin

"I think he no longer understands what’s right and what’s wrong. Psychologically, it’s not easy for him to judge the situation soberly. He has a lot of people who influence his decisions. But if everyone is walking around you for 20 years telling you what a great guy you are and how great a job you are doing, you will never see your mistakes. In America, you have two four-year terms, and that’s it. You can’t come back. You’ve done some good for your country, haven’t grown fat on anything, and you leave without a fuss, letting young blood in."

On whether Putin has held power too long

"Yes, probably. He has been in power for almost 20 years and we haven’t seen any rule of law, really. He has been sitting there too long, he isn’t letting anyone else in."

Again, do read more from the interview.

I guess we'll now miss Panarin as much for his courage off the ice as his skill on it.