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Rangers star is paying the price — fishy allegations be damned
Rangers showing full support of Artemi Panarin amid absence
Artemi Panarin taking Rangers leave of absence after Russian hit piece
In wake of assault allegations levied against Artemi Panarin by his former KHL coach to a Russian tabloid on Monday, which forced the Rangers’ star winger to step away from the NHL, three former teammates who played alongside Panarin during the 2011-12 season when the altercation allegedly occurred tell The Post that they have no recollection of any such incident happening.
All three players competed under the former Vityaz coach, Andrei Nazarov, who claims that Panarin beat up an 18-year-old girl while partying at a hotel bar in Riga, Latvia following a Vityaz road loss on Dec. 11, 2011.
Nazarov, a known supporter of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly criticized Panarin for the 29-year-old Russian native’s outspoken beliefs regarding Putin’s regime. Additionally, Nazarov also once called for foreign players who criticize Russia to be jailed.
Jon Mirasty, reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, said his former coach’s accusations seem “really fishy” and that he had never heard any rumblings of such an incident occurring.
“[Panarin] was a great kid, I have nothing but nice things to say about him, so when I heard that, I was like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound like him,’ ” Mirasty, a former left winger, told The Post. “And I’m pretty sure I would have heard something like that, you know, being one of the older veteran players there.
“I never heard anything like that, so I was kind of blown away. I’m obviously not saying it didn’t happen, but if I were to guess (it did’t happen). And why is it coming out 10 years later?”
As for Nazarov, Mirasty said he had a lot of respect for him considering he had played parts of 16 seasons in the NHL – with the Sharks, Lightning, Flames, Ducks, Coyotes and Wild – and was a well-established coach in the KHL.
“He treated me good, he was obviously an ex tough guy, and then played at the NHL level too,” Mirasty said. “He was always really good to us, and it was kind of a strange year for us there because there was very few of us that were all Canadian guys and we didn’t speak a word of Russian.
“We really related to him because he spoke pretty good English and I don’t have anything really bad to say about him either. That’s why, to me, this is all really shocking.”
Mirasty questioned the timeline of the accusations and noted that he had seen Panarin publicly speak out against the Putin regime, which included him showing support for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Instagram post last month.
“I don’t even think Panarin could even beat up a girl,” Mirasty said. “He was a little, skinny kid and he was always just smiling, making people laugh, and he was a hell of a hockey player.. It just don’t add up to me.”
Reached by Facebook messenger Tuesday afternoon, Kip Brennan, who briefly played for the Kings and Islanders, also said he didn’t know anything about Panarin’s involvement in a physical altercation with a woman during the season they played together.
“I didn’t know or hear that something like that ever happened,” he told The Post.
“He was a great guy, he was hilarious in the locker room. He always worked on his English with the North American guys and was a very talented young player.”
A third former teammate, who requested to remain anonymous, agreed with both Mirasty and Brennan’s stance on the situation.
“I just know Artemi as a very happy, funny guy,” he said. “Always had a smile on his face at the rink and was a good teammate.”
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