Russia’s newly re-inaugurated president Vladimir Putin took to the ice for an exhibition hockey game on Thursday (May 10) alongside many former NHL stars. The “Legends of Hockey” game is broadcast annually on Russian state television. The yearly tradition is also a rare spectacle in which the Russian leader chooses to share the spotlight.
Putin in a team jersey is at odds with his preferred public image, a guy getting things done on his own. Riding on horseback, hunting, plunging into icy waters. State media depictions of his fourth inauguration mostly showed Putin taking care of business unassisted.
The annual exhibition game, however, offer Putin a new way to be the celebrated center of attention, and to burnish his strongman persona while also looking like a team player. Official photos of him sitting on the bench, or taking a spill, like any other player allows Putin to walk the line of an “everyman”, while still prominent on state television.
Putin scored only five goals, and made one assist, in this week’s game, down from some of his previous performances, most notably an eight-goal barnburner in 2015. The AP noted that Putin is more comfortable practicing judo, and didn’t pick up hockey until well into adulthood.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin | Russia
Born: October 7, 1952
Height: 5′ 7″ | Weight: ~160 lbs