Jaromír Jágr's hockey team cuts player from Russia's KHL after fan backlash

Slovak goalie Július Hudáček, who played this past season in Russia's KHL, lasted just two days with the Kladno Knights.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 07.01.2024 09:33:00 (updated on 07.01.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Slovak goalie Július Hudáček's tenure with the Kladno Knights has come to an abrupt end after just two days. In response to fan backlash, the Czech hockey team, owned by NHL legend Jaromír Jágr, announced the termination of their cooperation with Hudáček through social media.

The 35-year-old player's arrival in Kladno sparked significant controversy, as he spent much of his career including this past season in Russia's KHL (Kontinental Hockey League), while Russia continued its war in Ukraine. Hudáček's signing sparked immediate backlash from Kladno fans, with some urging a boycott of games.

Kladno management explained their decision in a statement, stating that they considered all aspects related to Hudáček's engagement and concluded that continuing the cooperation was not in the best interest of the club or the player. The club emphasized the importance of the upcoming season and expressed the hope of uniting with fans, partners, and supporters as a cohesive team.

"We made this decision after considering all aspects related to his engagement," Kladno writes. "We came to the conclusion that continuing cooperation is neither in the interest of the club nor in the interest of the player."

Hudáček's arrival led to some fans turning against the club, particularly its owner and sometimes player Jágr. In response to the signing, the Knights' Haldaři fan club announced on Instagram their intention to boycott the Knights' matches, stating their opposition to Hudáček's signing and the values they believe he represents.

"From Sunday, don't count on us at the Kladno [hockey arena]," Haldaři writes. "We fundamentally oppose the signing of Hudáček, and the acceptance of the values ​​that this player represents. For us, honor, consistency of opinion and a sense of justice are more than a few points in the table and momentary personal gain."

Prior to joining Kladno, Hudáček was without a team this season. Last year, he played for Barys Astana in the KHL. Kladno approached him due to an injury to goaltender Adam Brízgala.

Kladno was set to be Hudáček's third team in the Czech Extraliga. He previously played for Pardubice in the 2013-14 season and Sparta Prague in the previous year, accumulating a total of 58 starts in the competition.

Hudáček, a three-time Slovak champion with Košice and a seven-time participant in the World Cup, spent a significant portion of his career in the KHL. In addition to Astana, he also played for Novosibirsk, Cherepovets, Spartak Moscow, and Dinamo Riga. He has also played in Sweden for Södertälje, Frölunda, and Örebro.

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