Every four years, it seems like the NHL and IOC play a game of chicken before eventually coming to an agreement that allows NHL players to participate in the Olympics. And every four years, Alex Ovechkin states he will participate, even if there’s no accord reached.
During the World Cup of Hockey, Ovechkin said matter-of-factly he would go to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics regardless of the NHL’s decision.
On Friday, Caps owner Ted Leonsis threw his support behind Ovechkin in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Leonsis said. “We’ll get fined or something. I hope it doesn’t get to that. But I’ve got to have my captain’s back, and I will.”
Many of the players love playing for their country and the Olympics. You just saw that with the World Cup. It was a meaningful tournament, and the players played really, really hard, and the ones who lost were incredibly disappointed, and the team that won celebrated like it was an important victory. I think it’s always a question of alignment on players, union, the league, owners. That’s the pecking order, and they have to work it out and decide.
To me, and this always comes up around Alex: When I first met Alex, and his mom and dad, they talked about the Olympics. The Olympics are incredibly meaningful to Alex and his family. So my commitment to them was, I will always do what’s in Alex’s best interest, and I said it 10 years ago, I’ll say it today: If Alex Ovechkin says this is really important to me to go represent and play for my country, I’m going to support him. What’s the worst that could happen? We’ll get fined or something. I hope it doesn’t get to that. But I’ve got to have my captain’s back, and I will.
It’s a players’ league. The fans come to see the players. They don’t come to see me play. But the players have to realize, is it good for the game? Is it growing the game? There’s the risk of injury. They have to weigh all of that. The union has to weigh all of that. The stakes get higher every four years. There’s more revenue. The players get paid more money. It’s a big business. And so I think it’s almost every four years, you have to have that gut check, and the union and the league and the players and the owners, we all have a voice. But to me, the overriding voice is of the players.
What may complicate things is that Ovechkin’s Russian teammates, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, are national players too. During training camp, Kuznetsov intimated he would go regardless of the NHL’s decision as well.
Evgeny Kuznetsov on 2018 Olympics: "Next Olympic game gonna be huge for us. We’re all gonna go and I don’t think about it."
— Katie Brown (@katiebhockey) September 28, 2016
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