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Russian Players Look for Way Out

Hockey: Two prospects, one the Ducks' top draft pick, caught in web of international politics.


Another chapter has begun in the tale of two prospects.

Stanislav Chistov, a Mighty Duck draftee, and Alexander Svitov, already under contract to Tampa Bay, appeared in a Moscow district court last week, asking that their contracts with Avangard Omsk, their team in the Russian Super League, be dissolved so they could join HKCSKA, a second-division team, hockey sources said.

The court returned the matter to Russian Hockey League officials for settlement.

Chistov, the fifth overall pick in June, and Svitov, the third overall pick, are practicing with HKCSKA, run by legendary coach Viktor Tikhonov. Hockey sources said that if they were allowed to play for Tikhonov, who for years coached the former Soviet Union's national team, then the Ducks and Lightning will likely be able to make financial arrangements to bring them to the United States. Both are believed to be under contract with Avangard Omsk through the 2004-05 season.

"They are practicing with HKCSKA now and waiting for the next step," said agent Jay Grossman, who will represent the players once they are out of Russia.

Chistov and Svitov, who led Russia to the world junior championship earlier this month, have been caught in a hockey tug of war since being drafted. Both were ordered home last summer under the threat of being AWOL from the Russian army.

Officials from both NHL teams said they were unaware that the players were in the army. The Lightning signed Svitov in July and expected him to play for the team this season. The Ducks did not sign Chistov but they did bring him to Anaheim to rehabilitate a knee injury after the draft. They were hoping he would attend training camp next September.

"The future seemed uncertain," Chistov said in Sports Express, a Russian publication. "It was a bitter to end up in such a situation. I was sent to the sports regiment [of the airborne forces]. My service there continued 11 days, during which I practically did not do a thing, though I did wear army boots."

Anatoly Bardin, Avangard Omsk's president, boasted at the time that he had won the battle with NHL teams and saved talented players for Russia.

"Right now, the young players got a new trendy theme, 'I had an injury. I left to rehabilitate it,'" Bardin said in Sports Express. "This is all made up by the agents. They are used to doing their things beyond law, ignoring contracts with players."

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