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'Not a right-wing extremist': German hockey team defends ex-Coyotes goalie after social media flap

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Posted at 1:15 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 16:34:58-04

The German Ice Hockey Federation has defended its national team player and former Coyotes goaltender Thomas Greiss after he liked controversial social media posts, including one comparing former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to Adolf Hitler.

"It's very important to make clear that Thomas Greiss is definitely not a right-wing extremist nor a right-wing populist," federation vice president Marc Hindelang said.

Greiss, who played for the Coyotes during the 2013-14 NHL season and currently plays with the New York Islanders, has faced criticism in Germany, where public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk first reported that he liked several pro-Donald Trump memes on Instagram.

Deutschlandfunk published screenshots of posts liked by Greiss. One was a picture of Hitler and the words, "Never arrested, never convicted, just as innocent as Hillary."

Shortly after the German federation came to his defense, Greiss himself issued an apology.

"I apologize for interacting with several posts that appeared in my timeline, which were wrong to engage with," Greiss said in a statement issued by the team. "'Liking' these posts was a mistake, and I sincerely apologize again."

German Olympic Sports Confederation president Alfons Hoermann was scathing in his criticism of Greiss, going so far as to say the 31-year-old should not take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

However, Greiss was always likely to miss the games after the NHL's decision not to stop its season to allow players to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics.

Greiss missed Germany's 3-2 loss to Denmark at the ice hockey world championship due to injury on Friday, and could be out for the rest of the tournament.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals was due to arrive on Saturday. Germany head coach Marco Sturm said the change was not connected with the social media controversy.

"It wasn't an issue in the team at all," Sturm said.

Hindelang said there would be no consequences for Greiss beyond a talk between the federation and the player.

"There's a fine line between tastelessness and intolerable things ... Hitler is a no-go, that's clear," said Hindelang, who added that players had the right to have their own opinions and political preferences.

"That's democracy and we all have to deal with it," Hindelang said. "He's going to stay in the squad. He won't be suspended."

Greiss played in 25 games for the Coyotes in 2013-14. He won 10 of them and posted a 2.29 goals allowed average.