Originally posted on Fox Sports  |  Last updated 8/27/13

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 01: Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils celebrate Parise's goal at 14:14 of the first period against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center on October 1, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ilya Kovalchuk surprisingly bolted from the NHL this summer, retiring from the New Jersey Devils and signing with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League in his native Russia. It seems Kovalchuk didn't bring any of that American tendency to disagree with the government back to his homeland. Asked about Russia's vague -- but not so vaguely threatening -- anti-gay laws, Kovalchuk took the party line. "I agree, of course," he said. "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." If it's hard to parse some of that -- we all have to respect that he's Russian? it's a free world until you get to Russia? -- Kovalchuk clearly isn't straddling any blue lines here. At least publicly, he supports the law that is kicking up controversy and concern heading into next year's Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi. Kovalchuk was a prolific scorer in the ...
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