GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad was enjoying some All-Star break R & R in Turks and Caicos when news of President Trump’s executive order on immigration from Friday reached the sunny archipelago southeast of the Bahamas.
Zibanejad, a native of Sweden, has an Iranian-born father who lives in the United States. Even though Zibanejad has a Swedish passport, he was concerned enough about his ability to re-enter the U.S. that he reached out to immigration lawyers before flying home — without incident — Sunday night.
“Obviously, I miss Sweden, but I don’t want to go back just yet,” Zibanejad said Monday as the Rangers reconvened for practice before hosting Columbus on Tuesday night. “But everything looks fine. [I was] a little worried, because it doesn’t seem like everybody is on the same page for this. So if you get someone who’s maybe not informed . . . it could cause a little problem. But I wasn’t too, too worried about it.”
Zibanejad is more worried about the family he has in Iran, including his grandmother, and for his father, who is a green- card holder.
“Obviously, it’s not a lot of fun when that happens to the country where you have family,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy for them to come here, and this certainly doesn’t make it easier, or even possible at this point. It’s hard to kind of comment on. I don’t want to get in too deep, but it seems like it’s very straightforward and they have very straight lines of what the deal is, but I find still they’re confused about it, still a lot of confusion about what’s wrong and what’s not.
“I guess when a change like this comes very — not from nowhere — but when it comes down like it did, I feel like there was maybe not a whole lot of thought about how to work it out. It seems very straightforward, but very confusing about how they deal with it.”
The good news for Zibanejad and the rest of the NHL’s current players is that none of them is a citizen of the seven Muslim-majority countries on the presidential order, according to league spokesman Frank Brown. The NHL has seven Canadian teams and players from 16 countries, but traveling to and from Canada and the U.S. for games shouldn’t be an issue under the current rules.
Still, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement: “We’re monitoring it. We’re aware of the issues that may come up. We’re trying to stay current with them. If it affects how we operate as a business, we will try to find a way to deal with it.”
As for Zibanejad, he was just happy to get back in the country and back on the ice to rejoin his teammates. “I’m happy I’m here now,” he said.
Injured players return. Marc Staal (concussion) and Jesper Fast (upper body) practiced and should play Tuesday night, Alain Vigneault said. Backup goalie Antti Raanta (lower body) returned and also should be available.