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Kovalchuk supports Russian anti-gay law; Crosby, other stars opposed

Ilya Kovalchuk Former Devil Ilya Kovalchuk is toeing his homeland's party line for Sochi. (Martin Rose/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

Here's a shocker: another high-profile Russian athlete has come out in support of their country's controversial anti-gay propaganda law.

"I agree, of course," said Ilya Kovalchuk. "I'm Russian and we all have to respect that. It's personal and, like I said, it's a free world, but that's our line. That's our country, so everybody has to respect that."

I'm guessing that Kovalchuk, who was speaking to TSN, might have a different understanding of the phrase "free world" than most people.

To be fair, though, he's got more skin in this game than any of us. Maybe that is the way he feels. Maybe that's the way he was told to feel. Doesn't much matter. It's pretty clear now that this is the sort of stock answer you should expect whenever a Russian is asked to speak in public about this particular law.

The same question was posed to several players at Team Canada's orientation camp in Calgary on Sunday, and while what they said didn't exactly come across as an outpouring of support for the gay community, it's clear that their views are a little different.

"It’s hard to go into a country that supports something like that," said Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, though he added that he's not in favor of boycotting the Games. "I don’t think that would do any good. I think it would cause more problems than it would solve.

"But I think it’s an opportunity for athletes to get together and support a cause that I think a lot of us really have a passion for. And I think we can do lot of good for it."

Said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, "I don’t agree with [the laws]. I just don’t agree. I think, gay or not, that shouldn’t change anything. Not a big fan of that."

"I was part of that 'You Can Play' campaign, and I know a lot of guys who are going to be on Olympic rosters," said Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos. "It's a little uneasy with what's going on over there, but there's a lot of time and I think things can change."

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby noted that the law wouldn't find much support in Canada. "I think that everyone has an equal right to play and I think we've been supportive of that," he said. "With the Olympics and the controversy around that, I think those decisions and those laws aren't necessarily something that I agree with personally . . . their laws and their views."

We'll update later today when Team USA's hopefuls face the same question.

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