Just a few hundred meters from the United Nations, where Russia is fighting in Ukraine, Madison Square Garden crowd chanted the name of goaltender Igor Shesterkin in the final minutes of a playoff win.

Similar scenes were seen in Washington Capitals’ capital during round one, when Washington Capitals fans greeted Alex Ovechkin with “Ovi!” Ovi!” Ovechkin is a long-standing link to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He ordered the invasion.

Inadvertently, the NHL postseason has become a crossroads of politics and sports with Russians playing on North American ice in the midst of the most significant military conflict in Europe since World War II. While their counterparts in tennis and soccer were banned from competing in competitions, the NHL has seen Russians keep a low profile while still playing in the games.

“Everybody’s doing their best under extremely difficult circumstances,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said to The Associated Press in a recent interview. “Our players play for their NHL team, regardless of where they are from.” The Russian players are currently in an impossible position.”

56 Russians ice skated in NHL regular season. This is 5% of total players. Only 29 Russians took part in the playoffs which was just under 8%. These are some of the most talented players in the game, with Shesterkin supporting the New York Rangers into the second round and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kuchrov and Andrei Vasilevskiy helping the Lightning reach their fourth Eastern Conference final in five seasons in a bid to win the Stanley Cup.

The NHL did not seriously consider a ban on players from Russia or Belarus like Wimbledon. This was a major factor in the invasion. It issued a statement condemning war and ended all business and partnership relations with Russia. The NHL also stopped posting to Russian social media and digital media sites.

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Putin’s forces have allowed individual players from Russia to continue to play on the ice. The NHL stated that it is concerned about Russian players’ well-being and added, “We understand their families are being put in an extremely difficult situation.”

Stefan Szymanski from the University of Michigan, professor of sport management, said that “it’s a quagmire” and that there is no easy way out. “The best answers are to either say “We will not ban any athlete” or “We will ban all athletes”, and everything in between will be caught up in these gray spaces.

Russian players are largely silent about Putin’s “special military operation,” which could result in a return to prison for those who call it war. Ovechkin, who campaigned in 2017 for Putin, posted a plea for peace on Instagram by Nikita Zadorov, Calgary defenseman, and Carolina forward Andrei Svechnikov calling it a “hard circumstance.”

Dan Milstein, a Ukrainian agent who represents 14 Russian players in the NHL, including Kucherov, said to the AP that he was concerned about talking about the war with family members back home. He, along with several other NHLPA-certified agent who represent Russian clients, have declined to comment or didn’t respond to messages requesting comment.